With 1:49 left in regulation, Niklas Hjalmarsson flew up ice and took a pass between the circles. His blast flew by Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and the United Center erupted.
But the goal did not count. Referee Stephen Walkom blew the play dead because Brandon Saad and Kyle Quincey were both called for matching roughing minors for a skirmish in front of the Red Wings bench.
It appeared to be the most harmful of calls for the most obvious of reasons. But Walkom had blown his whistle and the goal did not count.
The Blackhawks were beside themselves, but they regained their composure. They salvaged the game and the series as Brent Seabrook’s wrister early in the extra session went by Howard’s outstretched glove.
Bad break? Yes. Awful scare? No doubt.
But the Blackhawks did what great teams do—they overcame the worst break that came at the worst possible time.
They didn’t stop playing to feel sorry for themselves; they overcame a problem and found a way to win.
The conference semifinals represented a dark sinkhole for the Blackhawks. They dropped three of the first four games to a team they swept through in the regular season.
The Blackhawks had made a terrible mistake in treating a proud team like the Red Wings lightly, and they nearly destroyed their own season with a lackadaisical effort in the second game of the series.
That 4-1 loss at the United Center was a total shutdown on the part of the Red Wings. The Blackhawks simply had no fight in that game. While they did try to bounce back in Games 3 and 4 in Detroit, they did not do enough to win.
It was only when they got back to the United Center and Game 5 that they found their game. They never took their foot off the accelerator the rest of the way.
Head coach Joel Quenneville has to hope that his team learned its lesson against the Red Wings. The defending champion Los Angeles Kings now await, and and they are good enough to repeat.
The Kings may have the edge on the Blackhawks. They are more physical and as good as Corey Crawford was for the Blackhawks, he is not as good as Jonathan Quick.
The Blackhawks may have the offense to threaten the Kings, but it won’t be enough if the effort is not there early in the series. The Blackhawks can’t sleepwalk through any games with the Kings.
„They are a hard, heavy team and they will come at you,” Patrick Sharp said to NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire after the game. „We have to bring our best game to compete with them.”
The Blackhawks had to hold on by the tips of their fingernails to stay alive in the series. If they didn’t know that they can’t waltz in these playoffs, they know now.
In the end, the scare should help the Blackhawks realize how ugly it can get if there is anything less than their best.
The effort will almost certainly be there against the Kings.
Source: Bleacher Report
Photo: Chicago Blackhawks