DETROIT – The Blackhawks’ three-game road trip looked hazardous before it began. Games in Ottawa, Detroit and St. Louis against playoff-bound teams could have derailed their own playoff chances.
With a tough, tight 2-1 victory Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, the Hawks have turned their trip into a confidence-building run built on a commitment to solid defense from everyone.
Patrick Sharp had a power-play goal and an assist, Patrick Kane scored the tiebreaking goal and Ray Emery turned away 23 of 24 shots as the Hawks won their third game in a row and solidified their sixth-place position in the West with 79 points.
‘‘We felt we had to play another perfect road game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘We had a lot of good things. I thought it was comparable to the way we played Friday [a 2-1 victory against the Senators] with the details, the purpose, being positionally aware.”
The Hawks’ success on the penalty kill exemplified the commitment. They killed all four of the Red Wings’ power plays, including a crucial one that carried over to start the third period.
The Red Wings were able to set up their power play, but the Hawks’ forwards were aggressive and able to discourage some shots. The Red Wings got five shots on Emery, while the Hawks mustered three short-handed attempts.
‘‘We’re not going to win every night, but you can control the way you work and things you do out there as a unit,” Sharp said.
Having Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook back together and adding Johnny Oduya have made the Hawks more formidable overall. Once Niklas Hjalmarsson returns from his concussion, they might be even better.
‘‘In the three games [Oduya] has been here, our defense seems like it’s more positionally aware,” Quenne-ville said. ‘‘There is more composure there. We’re starting with direct plays exiting our zone. Back in our own end, it’s really improved.”
As much as the Hawks have missed center Jonathan Toews (concussion), the Red Wings could have used defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, center Pavel Datsyuk and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, all of whom sat out with injuries. Goalie Jimmy Howard (lower-body injury) was replaced by Joey McDonald after the first period.
But the Red Wings still managed to test the Hawks, who were fortunate to see some quality chances hit posts. Emery was beaten by defenseman Niklas Kron-wall, who also landed hard checks on a few Hawks, with a shot from the point at 6:03 of the first period after center Darren Helm waltzed around Hawks defenders.
After the Hawks caught a break late in the second period with defenseman Brad Stuart’s turnover, Sharp fed Kane with a nice pass that Kane converted for a 2-1 lead.
‘‘It was really similar to the Ottawa game, where we shut them down in the third [with] that little extra effort that it takes to hold on to a lead against a good team,” Emery said.
The Hawks’ trouble all season has been maintaining that effort.
‘‘It’s taken us this long, but better now than never,” center Jamal Mayers said. ‘‘We should be playing as a group, moving with each other and supporting each other.
“Because of that, we’re more predictable for each other. And at the end of the day, we have enough skill to score goals.”