LARRY LAGE,AP Hockey Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Jakub Kindl scored on a power play in the second period, Daniel Cleary had an empty-net goal and Jimmy Howard made 27 saves to help the Detroit Red Wings hold on for a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, putting the NHL’s best team during the regular season on the brink of elimination.
After losing Game 1, the seventh-seeded Red Wings have surged into control of the second round series by handing Chicago its first three-game losing streak of the year.
Game 5 is Saturday night in Chicago.
The Blackhawks desperately need captain Jonathan Toews to score and lead after he extended his goal drought in a composure-crumbling performance.
Toews was called for three penalties in the second and could’ve gone to the box a fourth time in the period for slashing Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg while an official stood between them.
The Red Wings took advantage of the second power play Toews gave them when Kindl sent a low shot to the near corner from the top of the left circle.
Chicago had killed its first 30 penalties of the playoffs and matched the 2001 St. Louis Blues’ feat of playing eight postseason games without giving up a power-play goal, the longest such streak since 1988.
The Blackhawks had a power play with 4:45 left in the game when Kindl was called for hooking, but they couldn’t tie the game.
Corey Crawford had in a strong performance in goal for Chicago after giving up seven goals in the previous two games.
Howard was just a little bit better, earning his first shutout of this postseason and the second of his career in the playoffs.
Kindl scored his first goal of his first postseason, keeping up a trend that has helped the rapidly improving Red Wings pull within a win of their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2009 when they got past Chicago and went on to lose Game 7 in a Stanley Cup finals rematch against Pittsburgh.
Detroit’s young players — six of which hadn’t been in the playoffs before this year — have been contributing to help out stars Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Red Wings rookie Brendan Smith scored the winner in Game 2 at Chicago to even the series. First-year player Damien Brunner and Gustav Nyquist, who was pointless in his first four postseason games last year, had goals in overtimes against second-seeded Anaheim in the first round.
Chicago’s 25-year-old captain, Toews, should seemingly be in the prime of his career, but he is in a slump against a team that appears to be getting to him physical and mentally. Toews was called for three penalties in the first 11 minutes of the first time in his career, according to STATS.
He has gone 10 postseason games without a goal — dating to last year’s playoffs — in what is the longest scoring skid for a former Conn Smythe winner since Claude Lemieux went 20 games without a goal from 2000 through 2009, according to STATS.
NOTES: Detroit D Danny DeKeyser, who broke his right thumb in the first round and was ruled out for the playoffs, said he is holding out hope that he can come back if his teammates can advance. … Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, Chicago has lost in the first round twice and is a loss away from a second-round exit.
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