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Blackhawks force Game 7 on Wednesday after 4-3 road win

Updated: May 28, 2013 1:44PM

DETROIT — Twenty minutes away from another long offseason of questions, of criticism, of potentially massive changes, the Blackhawks — their coaches off in another room — sat around their dressing room and had a chat. Some of the veteran guys stood up, one by one, and talked about how they’ve been here before, how they’ve done this before, how they’ve overcome more than this before. They might not have been Hollywood-quality speeches — “Duncs had a good one,” Bryan Bickell said of Duncan Keith — but the sentiment was there.

And trailing by a goal in gut-wrenching fashion, the Hawks came out for the third period with one emotion. It wasn’t panic, it wasn’t desperation, it wasn’t even urgency.

“It was just pure confidence,” Jonathan Toews said.

Michal Handzus and Bickell scored in the first six minutes of the third period, and Michael Frolik added a penalty-shot goal to stun the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 and send this rollicking Western Conference semifinal back to the United Center for Wednesday night’s Game 7.

Of course, they did. How else could one of the sport’s great rivalries end before the Red Wings ship off to the Eastern Conference next season?

“Everybody said the right things,” Handzus said. “You can talk, but you’ve got to do it on the ice. That’s what this team did. It [showed] a lot of character, but it’s over now. Game 6 is over. It’s a good feeling right now, so just enjoy tonight and get ready for a big Game 7.”

They don’t get much bigger. And they don’t get much more unlikely.

When they filed into the dressing room following the second period, the Hawks were down 2-1. Their hot start — an early, crowd-quieting power-play goal by Marian Hossa — was a distant memory. Patrick Eaves had tied it with 1:09 left in the first period, and then things started to fall apart in the second. First, the Hawks power play — which had suddenly scored on three straight chances — regressed, squandering back-to-back Red Wings penalties early in the second.

Then, Corey Crawford — so good all season and so tremendous all postseason — gave up what he deemed a “brutal” soft goal to Joakim Andersson, whose seemingly harmless wrister from the top of the left circle knuckled over Crawford’s glove. The score rekindled unpleasant memories of last spring, when Crawford gave up two soft goals in overtime in a first-round loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Hawks limped into the dressing room down a goal, and down to their last 20 minutes. They had lost the lead. Lost the momentum.

But they hadn’t lost the game. Not yet.

“We just talked about how everybody believed here, and there was no doubt,” Hossa said. “We came out strong.”

And quickly. Handzus took a great feed from Niklas Hjalmarsson and had all day all alone in front of Jimmy Howard’s crease, taking his time before ripping a shot on the far side to tie the game at 2-2 just 51 seconds into the third period. It was a stunning — and stirring — start for the Hawks.

“We knew we had all period, 20 minutes to tie the game up, and if it had to go to overtime, whatever,” Toews said. “We were going to do whatever we needed to do, but he got us back on our feet pretty quick there.”

And suddenly the Hawks had all the momentum to go along with all that confidence. Five minutes later, Toews put the puck on net from the corner, and Bickell tucked it in past Howard for his team-high fifth goal of the playoffs. Four minutes after that, Frolik took a slash from Carlo Colaiacovo on a breakaway and flipped a backhander past Howard on a penalty shot — becoming the first player to ever score two playoff penalty-shot goals — to make it 4-2 Hawks and send thousands of Red Wings fans out of Joe Louis Arena and out into Hockeytown.

Damien Brunner’s goal with 57.1 seconds left made things interesting at the end, but Crawford — who rebounded so well from the bad goal — stood tall from there, silencing Joe Louis Arena for good, and reawakening the United Center for at least one more massive, all-or-nothing game.

It’s Hawks-Wings. And it couldn’t end any other way.

And yes, somehow, the Hawks feel they had it all the way.

“Our heads were just in the right spot,” Toews said. “We knew what we had to do and we weren’t panicking. We just had to stay with it. I think all our hard work is paying off. We’re finding ways and we’re doing the right things to score goals, and we’re confident when we get those chances that they’re going to go in somehow. We’ve got that momentum. And we want to keep it.”

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