Detroit Red Wings defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (28) tries to clear the puck from Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16), during the first period in Game 6.
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DETROIT — It was a gift, courtesy of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, that kept on giving.
Patrons of Joe Louis Arena were non responsive Monday for the early parts of Game Six of a Western Conference semifinal. Maybe they were too nervous to cheer, fearing momentum had tilted toward Chicago over the weekend. Perhaps too much Memorial Day fun deadened the audience.
At 10 minutes, 11 seconds into the second period they woke up. A flukey goal Joakim Andersson snuck past Crawford not only gave the Red Wings their first lead. It fired the engines of an idling Motor City.
So much for that.
The stranglehold Detroit had on this series a week ago has loosened significantly, as Chicago forced a game seven by scoring three third period goals to pull away 4-3. To continue their charmed stroll through the postseason, the Red Wings must overcome a tall order — beating the top-seeded Blackhawks in Chicago. The final installment of this back-and-forth series between NHL blue bloods is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Windy City.
Chicago, which has been resuscitated in this series after going down 3-1, is still ticking because of a thunderous third period. The league’s top team in the regular season tied the game 51 seconds into the frame when Michal Handzus snuck one past Jimmy Howard a few feet in front of the net. Bryan Bickell (5:48) and Michael Frolik (9:33, penalty shot) followed for a 4-2 lead.
Before that avalanche Detroit was poised to advance to the conference finals to play San Jose or Los Angeles. Those teams, also locked into a game seven, will decide things Tuesday.
Andersson fired off a clear shot from a few skates inside the blue line, the type of non-threatening attack that at best can create a rebounding opportunity for a teammate. Instead the puck kept floating, perhaps taking on a knuckling motion. As Crawford raise his glove the puck zipped past his head. It marked Andersson’s first goal this postseason.
Fueled by a crowd at full throat, the Wings responded with renewed energy. They besieged Crawford with attacks, and fought back against roughhousing. After twice being checked in the back by Chicago’s Michal Rozsival, Justin Abdelkader responded by using his stick to strike the defenseman across the face and knock him to the ice. Rozsival appeared to have sold the contact to a nearby official, who sent he and Abdelkader to the penalty box.
Detroit’s offense flatlined soon after and remained that way until Damien Brunner scored at 19:18 to go down 4-3.
Chicago, following the script of its wins this series, struck early when Marian Hossa cashed in a power play at 3:53 of the first period. A scrum unfolded in front of Howard’s net before Hossa shook the grip of Henrik Zetterberg to record his fifth goal of the postseason. Officials reviewed the play and determined the net moved from the line only after the puck crossed.
The Red Wings’ failure to produce on specials teams has been magnified in all three losses. Chicago was 1 of 4 Monday on power plays, and 3 of 5 combined in its other two triumphs.
Detroit evened the scored at 18:51 when Patrick Eaves rebounded a wrister from Drew Miller. Brendan Smith assisted on Eaves' first goal of the postseason.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.