CHICAGO, Ill. – You couldn’t ask for more with the atmosphere at the United Center as a boisterous sellout crowd of 22,103 came to watch this longtime rivalry. It had a little bit of everything but the Chicago Blackhawks came out in front winning in overtime to overcome a three games to one deficit in the series to defeat the Detroit Red Wings by the score of 2-1. This was the final Game 7 that these two will have unless the two teams meet in the Stanley Cup Finals as Detroit moves to the Eastern Conference after this season. The Blackhawks will now meet the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings at home for the first two games on Saturday and Sunday.
Defenseman Brent Seabrook, who hasn’t had a good consistent playoffs, made up for that by taking the puck in and sweeping it past Jimmy Howard for the Western Conference Semifinals winner 3:35 into the extra frame. The play was made possible as Dave Bolland made a neutral zone hit causing the turnover giving him the lone assist.
The game had some controversy late in the third period as Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson appeared to have scored with 1:49 left. But the goal was called back as former head of NHL referees Stephan Walkom called two roughing penalties away from the play that sent a man from each team to the box.
After a clean first period, it appeared that on paper that the two teams were fairly matched with the Blackhawks just barely outshooting the Red Wings 13-11. But on the first penalty kill, Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford made it all happening with close to four consecutive stops before getting some help from his defensemen. Chicago kept up its league leading penalty kill stuffing the Red Wings twice in the period and shutting them out on all five chances in the game.
Chicago started the scoring, with a a three on one rush with each forward touching the puck with Patrick Sharp sending a drop pass back to Michal Handzus, who sent it to the opposite wing to Marian Hossa and back to Sharp who got the goal in to the left of Howard just eight second past the first minute of the second period of the game. Sharp leads the team with seven goals but this was his first of the series.
For most of the game the Blackhawks defense made too many mistakes in passes that went to the wrong team but the backcheck pretty much got them out of trouble except for one mistake twenty-six seconds into the final period. They cleared the puck out to center but the Red Wings collected the puck and center Gustav Nyquist skated along the boards drawing all the attention to him as left wing Henrik Zetterberg snuck in to take the pass to the big hole in the net to tie the score at one apiece. Early goals can be the momentum builder and that is what Detroit pretty much had for most of the period after Chicago looked gassed. Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville called an early timeout to give his team a much needed breather and that seemed to help as the momentum started to shift.
Even the no-goal call let didn’t deter the team as they headed to the locker room to come out with a clean slate because that is all they have done this season is not panic since the game is not over until the final horn sounds.
Early in the game the Red Wings suffered a blow as center Valtteri Filppula left a game with a lower body injury. He did not return to the game as he was seen watching the game on crutches.
Jimmy Howard who finished the postseason 7-7-1 was equally as outstanding in goal stopping 33 of 35 shots faced. Corey Crawford continues on to the Western Conference Finals with an 8-4-1 record missing all but one shot of the 27 he saw tonight. Outside of that one long distant knuckling goal that he let in in Game 6, he was not deterred from standing on his head in this decisive game. The crowd screamed “Corey, Corey, Corey…” as he was drowned out and filled with emotion as he was giving a post-game interview to the fans. This games was the 25th time in Stanley Cup Playoff history that a team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in a series.
Three Stars of the Game
Third Star: Chicago Blackhawks Goaltender Corey Crawford with the win and 27 saves
Second Star: Detroit Red Wing Goaltender Jimmy Howards with 35 saves
First Star: Chicago Blackhawks Defenseman Brent Seabrook with the game winning goal
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 7 Detroit Red Wings
Chicago Blackhawks win Series
Game 2: Detroit Red Wings 4 at Chicago Blackhawks 1
Game 3: Chicago Blackhawks 1 at Detroit Red Wings 3
Game 4: Chicago Blackhawks 0 at Detroit Red Wings 2
Game 5: Detroit Red Wings 1 at Chicago Blackhawks 4
Game 6: Chicago Blackhawks 4 at Detroit Red Wings 3
Game 7: Detroit Red Wings 1 at Chicago Blackhawks 2 Overtime