DETROIT -- The Chicago Blackhawks picked the wrong time for their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for his second career playoff shutout, and the Detroit Red Wings beat Chicago 2-0 at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night to take a 3-1 series lead over the heavily favored Blackhawks in the Western Conference semifinals.
Game 5 is Saturday night at Chicago's United Center.
Chicago got points in the first 24 games of the regular season en route to running away with the Presidents' Trophy, which goes to the team with the NHL's best record. They never lost more than two in a row ... until now.
After winning the first game of the series 4-1, the Blackhawks lost the past three by a combined 9-2 score. And now, if they can't stop their skid, their season will be over.
"We've got to find a way to dig in," center Patrick Sharp said. "We're going back to Chicago on our home ice in front of our home fans."
Jakub Kindl scored a power-play goal midway through the second period, and Daniel Cleary added an empty-net goal for Detroit, which is the Western Conference's No. 7 seed after barely sneaking into the playoffs.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock was asked if he were surprised that his team stands one win away from the Western Conference finals.
"If you would ask me two months ago, I would be shocked. We started playing better and better," Babcock said. "Once we got through the Anaheim (first-round) series, you go in thinking you have an opportunity. We're competing at a high, high level."
Corey Crawford stopped 25 shots for Chicago.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews -- who has no goals and three assists in his team's nine playoff games -- continued to be frustrated by the Red Wings. He took three consecutive penalties -- hooking, high sticking and hooking again -- in the second period.
"I'm not going to say anything about the officiating," Toews said. "Obviously I disagree with the calls, but it's in the heat of the moment. They see what they see."
The Red Wings capitalized with one second left in the second penalty to take a 1-0 lead when Kindl got his first goal of the playoffs at 10:03. He beat Crawford with a change-up of a shot from the top of the left circle.
It was the first power-play goal Chicago allowed in the playoffs after killing its first 30 short-handed situations. Detroit recorded its first power-play goal of the series after being foiled on its first 13 attempts.
Cleary scored his third goal of the playoffs with 39 seconds remaining in the game.
"We played a good game," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We knew they would come out and play good from the start, so we wanted to come out and take charge."
Chicago's Michal Handzus hit the crossbar with 9:45 left in the third.
Howard made an outstanding save on Dave Bolland on a two-on-one rush 9:25 into the third period after stopping Sharp on a breakaway with 4:55 left in a first period in which the Red Wings turned the puck over five times.
"In the playoffs you need your goalie the most, and he's been really big for us and keeping us in some games when we should have been down one or two," Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "But that's what we have in a goalie like him."
Chicago's Nick Leddy hit the goal post about two minutes into the second period.
NOTE: Handzus, not Toews, played on a line between Marian Hossa and Sharp. Toews was with Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell. ... Detroit D Dan DeKeyser had the cast removed Wednesday from his surgically repaired thumb. DeKeyser, whose thumb was broken May 2 in the second game of the Anaheim series, has been skating for a week. He was originally thought to be out six to eight weeks, but he thinks he could return if the Red Wings beat the Blackhawks and reach the Western Conference finals. ... Detroit D Brendan Smith was helped off the ice after taking a Bolland shot off the right knee with 3:20 left in the first period. Smith returned for the second period.