CHICAGO - The Detroit Red Wings used a quick start and solid defensive effort on Sunday night to finally beat the Chicago Blackhawks.
Henrik Zetterberg, Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson scored in the first period, and Detroit held on to beat Chicago 3-1 for their third straight win and seventh in eight games.
Jiri Hudler had two assists and the NHL-leading Red Wings defeated the Blackhawks for the first time in 2007-08 after losing their first four contests (0-3-1) against Chicago. Detroit improved to 32-8-3 overall in winning its sixth straight road game.
Rene Bourque scored for the injury-depleted Blackhawks, whose losing streak reached a season-high five games (0-4-1).
"We played last night and this is a game we might have overlooked had they not beaten us four times," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we played a good game. We drove the net real hard in the first period and had some chances."
The Blackhawks played without seven regulars - defencemen Brent Sopel (broken finger) and James Wisniewski (knee), and forwards Jonathan Toews (knee), Jason Williams (groin), Kevyn Adams (knee), Dave Bolland (broken finger) and Ben Eager (concussion).
"It's good feeling. They've really had our number this year," Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We had a real good start and were very aggressive with our defense jumping in.
"They played hard against us, but they lacked some of the guys who can hold onto and control the puck."
Blackhawks right wing Martin Havlat returned after missing six games because of a groin injury. Havlat, who sat out 22 games earlier this season due to an injured shoulder, has five goals and six assists in 12 games.
Detroit's Chris Osgood, who entered the game with a league-leading 1.71 goals-against average, made 19 saves. The Red Wings killed both Chicago power-play chances and have killed 25 straight over seven games.
"We always expect them to pick up their game against us," Osgood said. "But we stayed smart tonight. We played well in our own zone and picked off a lot of their passes in the slot. That might have been the key to the game."
Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin made 25 saves as the Blackhawks slipped back to .500 at 19-19-3.
"We've got a better team than last year," Havlat said. "You can't say we're not working hard."
But the Blackhawks are losing ground in a crowded Western Conference playoff race.
"We're a .500 team, but we think we're better than that," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "The way we started when we were healthy, we feel we can be a playoff team and I still do.
"The next two or three games, hopefully will get us going. As a young team, we're fragile."
Zetterberg opened the scoring just 50 seconds into the first period. He streaked down the slot unchecked, and beat Khabibulin on the stick side after taking a pass from Andreas Lilja. Zetterberg's goal was his 14th in 25 games against Chicago.
Cleary made it 2-0 with 5:54 left in the first. He fought off coverage by Patrick Sharp, drove to the net and jammed in a shot.
Samuelsson's power-play goal with 8.5 seconds left in the period extended Detroit's lead to 3-0. He scored on a drive from the left circle with traffic in front.
With 8.6 seconds left in the second, Bourque cut it to 3-1 when, at the front of the crease, he deflected in Tuomo Ruutu's shot from just inside the right point.
Notes: Zetterberg played his third game after missing five due to a back injury. He has points in each of his last eight games (five goals, eight assists). ... The United Center crowd of 21,869 was the Blackhawks' largest this season and third straight sellout. ... Chicago RW Troy Brouwer was in the lineup after being recalled from Rockford of the AHL on Saturday. ... Detroit LW Tomas Holmstrom missed his eighth game because of a bruised knee. Red Wings C Kirk Maltby sat out his 19th with a back sprain.