Blackhawks persevere, advance to Conference Finals

Blackhawks persevere, advance to Conference Finals
May 29, 2013, 10:15 pm
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Niklas Hjalmarsson admitted he needed that third-period intermission to cool off after getting what looked to be the go-ahead goal nixed late in regulation. But he and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks would be screaming for a much different reason not long into overtime.

The Blackhawks overcame a waved-off goal and Brent Seabrook scored the winner 3:35 into overtime as the Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1 at the United Center Wednesday night. The Blackhawks came back from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate Detroit and will now host the Los Angeles Kings beginning on Saturday.

[WATCH: Hjalmarsson brushes off no-goal call

It was a bizarre final few minutes for the Blackhawks. Hjalmarsson thought he had the go-ahead goal with 1:47 remaining in regulation, but it was nullified when Stephen Walkom whistled the play dead back by the blue line and called Brandon Saad and Kyle Quincey for roughing penalties.

“Yeah, I don’t know what the call was, why he made it, but that was his decision. I’m just fortunate we got the goal in overtime,” Saad said. “Obviously I wasn’t happy. But it’s refocus in between periods, go into overtime and get the win.”

Hjalmarsson said he was beyond steamed.

“I went blank from there; I got so mad,” he said. “I didn’t see the situation and what happened there, but it doesn’t matter now. We got the win and Seabs scored a huge goal for us. If we would’ve lost, it would’ve been a tough one. But since we won it doesn’t really matter much.”

[WATCH: Seabrook reacts to scoring the game-winning goal

The Blackhawks tapped into their resiliency once again, much like they have this entire series. They regrouped after going down 3-1 in the series. They regrouped in the second intermission in Game 6 when they were down 2-1. And they used the third-period intermission to do it once again.

“[Jonathan] Toews said, ‘Stick with it. It’s our time,’” recalled Corey Crawford, who stopped 26 of 27 shots for the series victory. "We have to keep pressing, keep playing hard, keep making plays and we’re going to get one."

The Blackhawks apparently even found a way to have a laugh in it.

“It was pretty funny seeing [Hjalmarsson] hopping around like that,” said Dave Bolland, whose big hit on Gustav Nyquist along the boards came moments before Seabrook’s game-winner. “But we came in, we were calm and confident that, when we went out there for OT, we were going to come through. We know with the depth we have, we can do damage out there.”

And less than four minutes into overtime, Seabrook was inflicting that damage, a shot that looked like it deflected off Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall’s skate and past Jimmy Howard, who had a stellar series for the Red Wings. It was the ultimate vindication for Seabrook, who’s had his ups and downs in this series.

[RELATED: A look at the Blackhawks-Kings Western Conference Finals schedule

“I don’t know if I saw it go in to be honest. I just heard the horn going and the boys jumping out,” Seabrook said. “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.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks just stuck with it all.

“Commend the guys for their attitude,” he said. “It goes back to [after] Game 4, our approach and belief were there. We got excited again, got momentum back. Give Detroit credit. It was a tough series, a great series. We were on the ropes for a long time. We’re very excited with where we’re at today.”

The Blackhawks’ road only gets tougher from here. The Kings are coming off a seven-game series themselves, dispatching the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night. Los Angeles is playing much like they did last postseason.

Yes, the Blackhawks know they’ll have their work cut out for them. But they’re also confident in what they’re doing right now. They fought back in a series where most counted them out. They’ve proven their resiliency. And they’ll keep tapping into that as much as they need to.

“We need to use that confidence that winning a series like this does for us,” Toews said. “We keep our eyes on the long-term result we want. It’s never over until it’s over, and we proved that in this series.”