It looked bleak for the Blackhawks for a while on Monday evening.
The Red Wings had taken over the game after Corey Crawford let in an old fashioned softie midway through the second period. It wasn’t apparent what happened but Crawford whiffed on a long distance shot from Joakim Andersson.
And it had happened, the goal that winds up sinking teams. The Red Wings increased the pressure in the offensive zone and the Blackhawks had trouble getting it out of their zone in the period.
But after the goal that put the Blackhawks down 2-1, Crawford bounced back and kept the Blackhawks in the game. Still the Blackhawks trailed 2-1 heading into the third period.
Who knows if there were words that were said in between periods? However, the Blackhawks came out with a different attitude in the third period. They were much more decisive in the final period and played their best hockey of the series.
From the start of the third period the Blackhawks came out and forced the issue. Being aggressive has been a key for the winning team in each game this series. Quite simply, the Blackhawks were the more aggressive team in the third period.
Niklas Hjalmarsson rushed from the blue line to pinch in at the corner on a puck that was rung around. It worked as Hjalmarsson drew the attention of two Red Wings defenders which left Michal Handzus all alone in front of Jimmy Howard. Hjalmarsson found Handzus who waited patiently until Howard went down and he beat him to the far post.
But the Blackhawks weren’t satisfied as they continued the pressure when Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews teamed up in the corner. Toews threw the puck and Bryan Bickell poked in the loose puck.
The same effort was on display when Michael Frolik scored on his penalty shot. He blocked a shot and then outhustled the defense to the puck. It was the right call on the penalty shot as there was no attempt to play the puck by Carlo Colaiacovo. Frolik converted on the penalty shot and just like that the Blackhawks were up by two less than ten minutes into the third period.
By the way, Frolik is the only player in NHL history to score on two penalty shots in the playoffs.
Most of the last two games have seen a renewed effort to create plays in the zone with an aggressive forecheck. The Blackhawks committed to testing out the young Detroit defensive unit. They had trouble in the third period as they frequently lost assignments that led to two of the Blackhawks goals.
For a team that has struggled with consistency in the playoffs, it was refreshing to see the effort in five of the last six periods.
A goal like the one that Crawford gave up can decimate a team. But the Blackhawks showed their character and resolve with their play on Monday. The character of the Blackhawks was tested on Monday and they passed with flying colors. Now if they do that one more time, they will make it out of a series that has been tougher than they expected.