A five-goal second period helped the Detroit Red Wings finally solve the Chicago Blackhawks and guarantee they would maintain eighth place in the Western Conference for at least two more days.
Brian Rafalski, Nicklas Lidstrom, Jason Williams, Valtteri Filppula and Pavel Datsyuk all scored goals in the middle period and the Wings held on for a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon at the United Center. They had lost three straight matchups to the Blackhawks since a 3-2 win on Oct. 8.
"We came out and went to town in the second period," goaltender Jimmy Howard said after making 28 saves. "We really played well in the neutral zone and counterattacked and got something on them."
Andrew Ladd scored three goals for the Central Division-leading Blackhawks, including a pair in the third period as they cut a three-goal deficit down to one. Duncan Keith had their other goal.
"We've got to play a 60-minute game instead of a 50," Ladd said. "I don't know if we got too confident, maybe we think it's an easy game. We stop working. We stop playing simple. We stop winning battles."
Detroit maintained a one-point lead over Calgary for the final playoff berth in the West after the Flames beat the Wild later Sunday. The Red Wings and Flames will meet at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Tuesday.
The Wings trailed 2-0 entering the second period, and it momentarily looked as though they had fallen behind by three when Patrick Kane beat Jimmy Howard on a Chicago power play. However, the officials disallowed the goal, ruling Dustin Byfuglien had made contact with Howard on the play. No penalty was assessed to Byfuglien, but Detroit killed off the rest of the disadvantage.
"It was huge," Lidstrom said. "If they get that third one, it could be a different game. They gain a ton of momentum and we have to come from three down."
The game swung moments later on a pair of quick goals by the Wings' top defense pairing. Rafalski, one of the heroes for the U.S. Olympic team in Vancouver, got the Wings on the board on a power-play goal at 4:12 of the second. Henrik Zetterberg passed to Lidstrom back at the left point and he crossed with Rafalski, eventually passing the puck back right to left so Rafalski could lean in for a one-timer that eluded Cristobal Huet.
"They seemed to take it off the pedal a little there in the second and we took advantage of it," Rafalski said. "We got on a little bit of a roll there and just kept coming."
Lidstrom scored 28 seconds later to tie the score. Todd Bertuzzi was strong on the puck in the right corner and got the puck out to the blue line. He then drove to the net and set up a screen as Lidstrom ripped the equalizer past Huet.
The Wings then built a lead with another pair of quick goals. Williams put them ahead 3-2 at 9:45 when he redirected a Zetterberg pass in the slot with a pair of Blackhawks draped all over him. Filppula brought Huet's afternoon to an end 42 seconds later by scoring on a partial breakaway.
"I'm not blaming Huet there," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I called the timeout and that didn't seem to slow it down. (Detroit) got two tips on cross-ice passes."
Antti Niemi came on in relief, but the floodgates didn't close as Datsyuk collected the puck in the neutral zone and skated in to score on a breakaway with 2.7 seconds left in the period.
Ladd did his best to rally the Blackhawks in the third, completing his first career hat trick. His second of the game at 1:59 came after defenseman Kim Johnsson jumped up into the play and found him with a backdoor pass for a snap shot past Howard. He then made it 5-4 with 7:54 remaining, redirecting a Keith shot for his 15th goal of the season.
Howard held the Blackhawks off from there, helping the Wings survive a Zetterberg holding penalty with 7:04 remaining.
Keith had opened the scoring 4:24 into the first period and the Blackhawks struck again when Ladd beat Howard at 11:37 for a two-goal lead.
Detroit, which finally got healthy during the Olympic break, lost Bertuzzi to a lower-body injury after he was involved in a second-period collision with Chicago forward Ben Eager.
Material from wire services was used in this report.