The Blackhawks were missing their captain and two defensemen entering their matchup against Detroit, a formidable team to face even in optimum health.
But on a night when the Blackhawks needed the team-first mentality the most, they got it.
Jimmy Hayes and Marcus Kruger scored, and Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 2-1 at the United Center. The Blackhawks have won four in a row and remained in sixth place, three points behind fifth-place Nashville, which beat Vancouver tonight.
Both teams were missing their elite centers. Jonathan Toews is day to day with an upper-body injury for the Blackhawks, while the Wings Pavel Datsyuk is out 2-3 weeks after having knee surgery. And the Blackhawks were still minus defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador.
Despite all that, and a 1-0 deficit early in the first period, the Blackhawks got a hard-working game from everyone to hold off the Wings, who had won six in a row coming into Tuesday.
It just shows you, when were all playing together and everybodys doing the little things defensively -- forwards back-checking hard and being better in our own end and defensemen blocking shotsit makes everyones job easier.
Offensively, the contributions came from the Blackhawks youngsters. Hayes, who was recalled on Friday, scored his fifth of the season to tie the game midway through the second. Kruger crashed the net barely two minutes into the third for the game-winner, the first of his NHL career.
Hayes last two games are reminiscent of his strong play when he came up the first time this season.
Its just one of those things, being a big guy, youve got to be in front of the net. The shot got through, (there was) some traffic with Bickell there, and it just popped right on my stick there for a nice tap-in, Hayes said. The atmosphere was huge here. It was a big game for both teams, the one we needed to keep this going in the right direction.
And Crawford took care of his part, too, winning his fourth consecutive game. The Blackhawks No. 1 goaltender has allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts. Coach Joel Quenneville called Crawfords outing rock solid.
Hes been awesome the last couple of (games), said Patrick Sharp, who was stymied several times by Detroits Jimmy Howard. Its a tough position: you get credit when you win and take the heat when you lose. But in our locker room I can tell you we believe in him 100 percent. And to see the way hes working away from games, its definitely paying off.
Crawford said he got plenty of help.
The last 10 minutes of that game they had barely any (shots), Crawford said. Its another good game for us to play when were down for most of it. Again and we just keep playing our game, not trying to do too much to get back. Were playing a simple game, making the plays that we should.
The Blackhawks are playing with the pack mentality. They needed to against a team like Detroit. The losing streak is still in the Blackhawks minds, but more victories like this and itll be a distant memory.
Its a big boost (beating the Wings). Theyre in first place for a reason, Sharp said. That (losing) streak was good for us. Were playing a solid team game now, working hard.