Needing a win to put immense pressure on the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings put forth a stymieing performance on Thursday night to earn a crucial 2-0 victory.
Jakub Kindl scored a timely power-play goal in the second period, and Jimmy Howard had a 28-save shutout. Detroit now holds the 3-1 series lead as we head back to Chicago for Game 5.
The action in front of a raucous crowd at Joe Louis Arena was free-flowing and fast-paced from the start. But despite both teams combining for 24 shots in the opening period, no one was able to light up the scoreboard, as Corey Crawford and Howard both made some exceptional saves.
Detroit's 29-year-old goaltender, in particular, was terrific:
Jimmy Howard's effort in these playoffs has been... Olympian.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) May 24, 2013
Halfway through the second period, Howard was rewarded for his efforts when Kindl gave his team the lead.
Almost two minutes exactly after Jonathan Toews was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking Justin Abdelkader, Kindl blasted a slap shot right past Crawford to make it 1-0:
But it wasn't just the timing and importance that made the defenseman's goal so impressive. It was that he was able to score against Chicago's stingy penalty-kill defense.
It was such a rare occurrence, in fact, that it had happened a whopping zero times this postseason:
The Blackhawks, desperately needing an equalizer, continued to press on. As we headed to the final intermission, the chances at goal were even:
During the break, Yahoo! Sports' Nick Cotsonika came up with a brilliant idea for the Red Wings to hold on to their precious lead in the final 15 minutes:
Ndamukong Suh riding the Zamboni between periods at the Joe. Red Wings could use him in front of net on power play.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) May 24, 2013
But Howard didn't need it.
The Blackhawks got several legitimate chances in the final period, including a power play, but Howard continued his brick-wall ways in between the pipes.
Daniel Cleary added an open-net goal in the final minute to seal the victory.
It's desperation time now for the Blackhawks, who were the league's most dominant team during the regular season.
The Blackhawks were shut out for the first time all season. They were never shut out in the regular season or postseason.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 24, 2013
Facing adversity for the first time all year, they will head back to Chicago on Saturday at 8 p.m ET in hopes to extend the series. But if they can't figure out the red-hot Howard, the Red Wings will advance to the conference finals in front of Chicago's fans.