DETROIT – Michael Frolik skated toward Jimmy Howard, faked a wrist shot and flipped a backhander into the net. Now it’s on to Game 7.
Frolik’s penalty shot proved to be the winning goal Monday night, giving the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 and forcing a deciding game between the Original Six rivals in their last Western Conference post-season series.
Frolik became first player in league history to score two goals on penalty shots in the playoffs.
“I was kind of surprised that I was the first one in history,” Frolik said. “It’s a little bit special.”
He hopes his latest goal on a penalty shot in the playoffs helps the Blackhawks more than the previous one did. Frolik scored on a penalty shot on April 24, 2011 to pull Chicago into a third-period tie with the Vancouver Canucks, who went on to win the game.
Vancouver bounced back to beat the Blackhawks at home in overtime of that Game 7, handing them their first of two opening-round exits after they hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2010.
The NHL’s top-seeded team hopes home ice is an advantage this time when its hosts seventh-seeded Detroit on Wednesday night in Game 7.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, are counting on playing with confidence after beating second-seeded Anaheim on the road in Game 7 of their first-round series.
“We’ve been there before,” Detroit defenceman Niklas Kronwall said. “Now, we just have to do that again.”
Corey Crawford didn’t let the Red Wings score again after allowing a fluttering puck to go from the top of the left circle, past his glove and into the net.
“I pretty much told myself it can’t get any worse,” Crawford said.
It did—for Detroit.
The Blackhawks picked up their crestfallen goalie by scoring three times in the first half of the third period to win a second straight game after trailing 3-1 in the series, their last against Detroit because it will play in the East next season as part of the NHL’s realignment plan.
“We’ve got that momentum,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “We want to keep it.”
The Blackhawks seized it when Michal Handzus tied the game in the opening minute of the final period and kept it when Bryan Bickell scored about 5 minutes later.
Frolik’s goal on a penalty shot at the 9:43 mark put the Blackhawks ahead 4-2 and silenced the once-raucous crowd.
Chicago needed that cushion because Damien Brunner scored with 52 seconds left to pull Detroit within one. The Red Wings pulled their goaltender, but they were unable to score with the extra skater.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, though, refused to sound disappointed that his team has failed on its first two chances to eliminate the Blackhawks.
“We’ve got a chance to push them out of the playoffs,” Babcock said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
The Blackhawks shifted the series back to Detroit with a 4-1 victory in Game 5, and then jumped in front on Marian Hossa’s goal in the first period of Game 6. Patrick Eaves tied the game late in the first and Joakim Andersson put the Red Wings up 2-1 with a long wrister 10:11 into the second period.
Toews won the first faceoff against Henrik Zetterberg after the penalty was called, and ended up with an assist on Hossa’s goalmouth scramble 3:53 into the game.
Eaves, who revived his career during the lockout-delayed season after having a concussion, scored for the first time this post-season off a rebound 18:51 into the first.
The Red Wings went ahead for the first time when Anderson had the puck, which was on edge, and flicked a wrist shot that Crawford couldn’t handle.
“It was a knuckle-puck,” Andersson said. “It’s hard for the goalie to see those sometimes.”
Crawford made 35 saves, while Howard stopped 24 shots for the Red Wings.
Chicago got to the front of Howard in the third period and it paid off.
Handzus was basically by himself when he scored 51 seconds into the third against a helpless Howard. Bickell wouldn’t let Detroit defenceman Brendan Smith move him away from Howard before he scored the go-ahead goal, leading to Howard taking Smith’s stick and throwing it into the corner.
Frolik’s penalty try was awarded when he had a breakaway after blocking Carlo Colaiacovo’s shot and was hacked by him from behind.
“I’ve got nothing to say about that,” Howard said when asked about the call that gave Chicago a penalty shot.
Howard had a lot to say during the game about it, screaming at an official while the Blackhawks celebrated a comeback that was made possible by supporting players.
Frolik scored just three goals during the lockout-shortened season and had five last year, tying him for 13th on the team in scoring each time.
“There’s not a lot of room out there for top guys,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “We don’t care who scores. We’re all about being a team and contributing any way you can.”
NOTES: The Blackhawks won one or fewer series the previous three times they led the NHL in points. … Quenneville earned his 79th playoff win to break a tie with Babcock for the most by an active coach and move past Pat Burns into eighth place on the league’s all-time list.