CHICAGO – The team that scores first in a Game 7 nine times out of 10 usually comes out victorious.
Make that 16 out of the last 16.
Brent Seabrook scored just three minutes and 35 seconds into overtime as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series, 2-1, Wednesday night at the United Center.
“Right now it feels a little surreal,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “We were confident coming into overtime, had a good feeling in the room. We said we were going to go for it and then it just ends like that, the whole season just ends like that. Like I said it feels kind of surreal, empty right now.”
It’s now 16 straight postseason Game 7s that the team that scored first has gone on to advance.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Carlo Colaiacovo said. “I’m more in shock more than anything. We battled really hard and I thought with how hard we competed in the third period we had the momentum going our way and heading into overtime we felt pretty good about our chances. Then all of a sudden, one shot and your whole season is over. It’s tough to swallow now, but I couldn’t be more proud of a bunch guys. We battled hard and earned everything we deserved. It’s just unfortunate it’s got to end this way.”
Chicago, which trailed 3-1 in the series, takes the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series 4-3.
Detroit last lost a series when leading it 3-1 in 1991, when it was ousted from the opening round by St. Louis.
The Blackhawks will host the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday at 5 p.m. Los Angeles advanced after a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 7, Tuesday.
“Of course if feels really empty right now,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “I think we played a good game, we did a lot of good things, came back there forced overtime. You know, not surprised that they scored on kind of a fluke play there, it goes in when I think it hits Kronner’s skate and goes in.”
Patrick Sharp scored Chicago’s other goal early in the second period and Corey Crawford stopped 26 shots.
Zetterberg scored the Wings’ goal and Jimmy Howard made 33 saves.
It was Detroit’s fifth overtime game this playoffs, finishing 3-2.
Chicago improved to 2-1 in OT.
The series win was Chicago coach Joel Quenneville’s first against the Wings after losing the first five. It’s also his first win in three tries against Mike Babcock.
“It was a tight series, we played hard, it was a great Game 7,” Daniel Cleary said. “Guys should be proud of themselves. I thought we played a good game, had a good third period. It’s a good team we played. (I’m) proud and disappointed. We had three chances to close them out, just didn’t get it done.”
Just past the three-minute mark of overtime, Dave Bolland leveled Gustav Nyquist along the boards and Seabrook pounced on the loose puck and skated over the Wings’ blue line and wristed a shot over Howard’s glove to end things.
The shot deflected slightly off Niklas Kronwall.
“I think it went off me and went right in,” Kronwall said. “I didn’t get good enough gap control there, didn’t get up. He was able to walk down, I tried to block it and it went off me and in.
“Right now it’s just empty,” Kronwall added. “I thought we played a pretty good game, stuck with it and worked really hard. To go out like that is a tough way.”
The game remained tied despite what looked like an apparent goal from Niklas Hjalmarsson with 1:47 left in the third period.
However, referee Stephen Walkom had blown his whistle for an incident near the Wings’ bench that sent Kyle Quincey and Brandon Saad both off for roughing and put both teams down a man, just before Hjalmarsson’s shot beat Howard.
“I thought they should have had a penalty when they tripped Zetterberg and then I didn’t see the pile up, it was underneath my bench so I couldn’t really see what happened,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Our guy showed us the replay and the ref blew the whistle.
“These games are highly contested and real hard to officiate,” Babcock continued. “If this was a regular season game there would have been a parade to the penalty box with what goes on out there. That’s why the playoffs are so much fun is because they’re hard.”
Cleary agreed with the call.
“Steve made a call that he thought was the right call,” Cleary said. “I don’t think he saw Hjalmarsson coming down the slot. I mean, listen, referees are human. They make mistakes. I don’t know why everybody keeps getting on them for it. They try to do the best they can. It’s a fast game. Anybody can look from up top or look on TV and say shoulda, coulda. But you’re not the ice. You don’t know how it is out there.”
Trailing 1-0 to start the third, Zetterberg got the equalizer for the Wings just 26 seconds into the third period after getting a pretty feed from Nyquist.
Nyquist waited for Johnny Oduya to commit and chipped a puck over the Blackhawks defenseman’s stick and right to Zetterberg, who had nothing but an open net to shoot at as Crawford didn’t make a move to get back in his crease.
The goal was fifth of the playoffs and third in six career Game 7s.
Nyquist normally wouldn’t have been on that line, but an injury to Valtteri Filppula on just his second shift of the game forced the Wings to juggle up their forward units.
Filppula got tied up with Andrew Shaw by the Wings’ bench. Filppula was helped off the ice and back to the locker room and never returned.
Shaw first crosschecked Zetterberg and then Cleary tried to grab him while on the bench. Shaw then crosschecked Filppula high and the forward tumbled awkwardly to the ice.
The replay looked as if Shaw slew-footed Filppula to bring him to the ice.
“You guys watched the video, you decide,” Babcock said.
It took Chicago all of a 1:08 to open the scoring taking advantage of a horrible line change by the Wings, which led to a 3-on-1 going the other way.
As Kronwall and Ericsson went for a change, Kyle Quincey did jump over the boards and tried to break up the rush, but some precision tape-to-tape passing from Sharp to Michal Handzus to Marian Hossa and back to Sharp, who beat Howard cleanly with a one-timer, led to the goal.
The goal was Sharp’s seventh of the playoffs.
Detroit is now 14-10 all-time in Game 7s.
Two years ago, Chicago suffered a defeat in a Game 7, which was also in overtime, after dropping the first three games in the series with the Vancouver Canucks. Crawford was also the goalie for the Blackhawks.