Brent Seabrook sent a wrist shot past goalie Jimmy Howard’s glove 3:35 into overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series on Wednesday night.
The Blackhawks, who had the best record in the NHL regular season, rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to reach the Western Conference finals against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
For just the second time in NHL history, the final four teams remaining in the playoffs are the four most recent Stanley Cup winners. Chicago captured the Cup in 2010.
Seabrook picked up a loose puck and skated in on Howard through the middle of the ice, with Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall in front of him. His shot hit Kronwall’s leg before it sailed into the left side of the net for the defenseman’s first goal of the postseason.
”I don’t know if I saw it go in to be honest,” Seabrook said. ”I just heard the horn going and the boys jumping out. It was a pretty exhausting game, but I think I was more tired during the celebration with guys jumping and pushing me in the face and dragging me down.
”It’s exciting. You don’t get to do that too many times.”
The sellout crowd of 22,103 roared as Seabrook skated over to the boards and was mobbed by his delirious teammates.
Howard put his arm around Kronwall, who was down on one knee, and tried to console him while the Blackhawks celebrated.
It was quite a change from the end of the third period, when the Blackhawks thought they had scored the go-ahead goal. But it was waved off with less than 2 minutes remaining by referee Stephen Walkom, who called a pair of penalties behind the play.
Patrick Sharp had given Chicago a 1-0 lead in the second period.
Henrik Zetterberg tied it in the third for No. 7 Detroit, which beat second-seeded Anaheim in seven games in the first round. Howard finished with 33 saves.
Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk was held without a point, closing out an ineffective series for the Russian star.
Chicago made it to the conference finals for the first time since it won the title three years ago and will host Los Angeles in Game 1 on Saturday night. The Kings advanced with a 2-1 victory over San Jose in Game 7 on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh will host Boston in the opener of the Eastern finals on Saturday.
Chicago was one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup when the playoffs began, storming to the Presidents’ Trophy during the lockout-shortened season. The Blackhawks then boosted their credentials with a five-game win over Minnesota in the first round and a convincing 4-1 victory against the Red Wings in the series opener.
But Howard and Detroit responded with three straight victories, pushing Chicago to the edge of elimination. The frustrated Blackhawks held a team meeting the day after Game 4, where the seeds were planted for their improbable comeback.
They felt one win would turn it around, and they were right.
Three victories later – in which the Blackhawks outscored the Red Wings 10-5 after managing just two goals in Games 2-4 – they became the 25th team to win a series after trailing 3-1.
It was the first time in franchise history Chicago has made such a comeback.
Crawford finished with 26 saves, continuing his strong performance after allowing a soft goal that nearly proved costly in Game 6. He was especially tough after Detroit turned up the pressure early in the third.
The Blackhawks celebrated wildly when Niklas Hjalmarsson blasted a slap shot by Howard with 1:47 left in regulation, prompting cheers from the raucous crowd.
But Chicago forward Brandon Saad and Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey got tangled up in front of the Red Wings bench. Walkom stopped play to give roughing penalties to both players as the Blackhawks went in for what appeared to be the go-ahead goal.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had a long discussion with one of the officials while the cheers turned to boos as the crowd realized the goal was waved off. The Red Wings then rushed down the ice, and Johan Franzen’s shot was blocked by defenseman Duncan Keith.
After a seesaw series with all sorts of twists and turns, Chicago and Detroit faced off one more time in a Western Conference playoff game.
The Red Wings will move to the East after this season as part of NHL realignment while the Blackhawks remain in the West.
Playing on soft ice due in part to The Rolling Stones concert on Tuesday night, the Original Six teams provided a fitting conclusion to a compelling series.
Each side made the safe play for most of the game, clearing the puck away if there was any danger and patiently waiting for the other team to make a mistake.
Crawford and Howard were there when anyone got open.
The Blackhawks got an opening at the start of the second period when Sharp got Kronwall to turn the puck over while the Red Wings changed lines.
Sharp then skated in with Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa and finished a pretty passing sequence with his seventh goal of the playoffs at 1:08.
Detroit and Chicago each killed off a power play in the period while they jockeyed for control, and the Red Wings finally got even at the beginning of the third.
Gustav Nyquist made a nice move to get open along the boards and found a streaking Zetterberg on the left side for the captain’s first goal since the Red Wings’ 3-2 victory at Anaheim in Game 7 of the first round.
The Red Wings looked ready to duplicate the Blackhawks’ three-goal flurry in the final period of Game 6, dominating the action after tying it up. But Crawford stood tall, turning away every Detroit rush.
”To go all the way, you need a lot of luck,” Detroit forward Daniel Cleary said. ”You need to be healthy to win. The last five teams that won Cups were still alive. There’s probably a reason for that. They’re a good team. I mean, tip your hat to them. They played well.”
NOTES: Detroit C Valtteri Filppula didn’t return after leaving in the first period with an undisclosed lower body injury. … It was the third Game 7 between the Red Wings and Blackhawks. Detroit won 4-2 in 1964, and Chicago returned the favor by the same score a year later. … White Sox 1B Paul Konerko won his matchup with Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija in shoot the puck after the second period. Former Bulls star Scottie Pippen and Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman both received warm ovations when they were shown on the video board. … Chicago went 4-0 against Detroit during the regular season.