Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 1

Jerry Bonkowski, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Snapping a 1-1 tie that existed from the middle of the first period, the Chicago Blackhawks exploded for three goals in the third period to trounce the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 in Wednesday's Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Johnny Oduya put the Blackhawks in front 8:02 into the final period. A 15-foot wrist shot resulted in his second goal of the postseason.
Marcus Kruger increased Chicago's lead to 3-1 at 11:23. Kruger was in the right place at the right time, grabbing a rebound and putting it past out-of-position Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, an in-close shot from just left of the Red Wings' net. The goal was Kruger's second of the playoffs.
With 49 seconds remaining in the game, Patrick Sharp scored his team-leading sixth goal of the postseason into an empty net.
The game continued a trend for the Blackhawks from the opening playoff round against Minnesota, in which lesser-known players came up with big goals as opposed to regular-season scoring stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, neither of whom has scored a goal in the postseason.
Chicago spent much of this season being more of a finesse team, but Wednesday the Blackhawks played a markedly more physical game than usual.
Detroit, which is known for its physical style of play, initially seemed taken aback that the Blackhawks came out from the opening faceoff with a pronounced attack mode on both defense and offense.
Chicago outshot Detroit by a lopsided 42-21 margin.
The Red Wings pulled Howard from the net with about 90 seconds left, paving the way for Sharp's tally.
Chicago opened the scoring at 9:03 of the first period when Marian Hossa slammed home a power-play slap shot past Howard. Toews centered a perfect feed to Hossa, who was practically all alone about 30 feet in front of the net, with only one other Red Wing player around.
It was Hossa's fourth goal of the playoffs, second best on the team behind Sharp's total.
Detroit wasted little time in tying the game, as a Chicago defensive breakdown allowed Damien Brunner to score less than two minutes later (at 10:57) past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
It was Brunner's third goal of the playoffs, tying him with team captain Henrik Zetterberg for most goals on the team thus far in the postseason.
This series has all the markings of a Stanley Cup finals, with two fierce archrivals facing each other for what will be the last time in regular conference play. Detroit will move to the Eastern Conference next season.
Of note, Wednesday also was the 800th meeting all-time between the teams, including both regular season and playoffs. Detroit came into the game leading the overall series 398-317-84.
Chicago, which swept the four-game regular-season series between the teams, came into the game holding a tight 39-35 lead in all-time playoff meetings with Detroit.
However, the Blackhawks have not defeated the Red Wings in a playoff series since 1992. The last time the teams met was in the 2009 Western Conference Finals, which Detroit won in five games.
There was concern on both sides of the puck coming into this series. Blackhawks fans feared their team may be rusty, not having played since last Thursday when they wrapped up their opening playoff series, defeating the Minnesota Wild in five games.
On the flip side were Red Wings fans, who were worried their team may be tired after taking their opening-round series against Anaheim to a full seven games, ending with Detroit's win Sunday.
NOTES: Crawford continued to start in goal for the Blackhawks, even though Ray Emery is reportedly fully healed from a lower-body injury that kept him out of the opening Western Conference quarterfinals against the Minnesota Wild. ... Detroit F Justin Abdelkader left the game early in the first period after a vicious crosscheck. He did not return in that period, but was back on the ice in the second period, even flipping Chicago's Dave Bolland, with both players drawing identical penalties of two minutes for slashing and two more minutes for roughing. ... Chicago coach Joel Quenneville benched F Viktor Stalberg for the game. At least one media report claimed it was due to Stalberg complaining about lack of playing time in the Wild series. ... Attendance was 21,494.

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