Tough to say the Chicago Blackhawks didn't deserve to win this Game 7 when they won it twice.
After Niklas Hjlamarsson's bid to end the second-round series was rejected -- not by Jimmy Howard, who watched the puck blow by him and into the goal, but by official Stephen Walkom, who had important, coincidental minors to call -- the Chicago Blackhawks regrouped during a third intermission few in the hockey world felt was necessary.
A little over four minutes after the puck dropped in overtime, Brent Seabrook sent the Blackhawks to the Western Conference final for real:
With that goal, the Blackhawks won Game 7, 2-1, and the series, 4-3. The comeback was complete.
Cassie Campbell asked Seabrook how his club managed to get over the divisive call at the end of the third. Seabrook's response: "We forgot about it."
Of course, that's a whole lot easier to do when you win the game.
This game, like this series, almost slipped away from Chicago. While most in the hockey world didn't feel the Blackhawks should be in overtime in Game 7, almost as many felt they shouldn't have been in a Game 7 at all. The Blackhawks were supposed to win this series in a walk.
But instead, their first three-game losing streak of the year came at the worst possible time, and suddenly, Chicago found themselves playing three straight elimination games. Then two. Then one.
In Game 7, Patrick Sharp gave Chicago the lead midway through the second period, but they couldn't hold the lead. The Red Wings tied things up early in the third. For much of what turned out to be the penultimate period, it appeared as though the next goal was going to be the one that decided things.
It may well have been, but that was before Stephen Walkom made the call that would have lived in infamy had this game ended 2-1 in the other direction, blowing play dead a split-second before Hjalmarsson beat Jimmy Howard to give Chicago the lead.
After everything Chicago had done to come back, this could have been the moment they collapsed.
"I went blank," Hjalmarsson said about the moment he learned his goal didn't count. "I was so mad."
Thankfully, he didn't have to stay mad. The Blackhawks came storming out in the overtime determined to recover the goal they had lost. It didn't take them long.
And with that, all four of the league's top teams -- not to mention the four most recent Stanley Cup winners -- will meet in the Conference Finals. The Blackhawks get two days to catch their breath. On Saturday, Round 3 begins with a visit from the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
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- Chicago Blackhawks
- Brent Seabrook
- the Blackhawks
- Stephen Walkom
- Jimmy Howard