suntimes
UPBEAT 
Weather Updates

Seabrook! Blackhawks going to Conference finals after OT goal for Game 7 win

Updated: May 30, 2013 2:40PM



Brent Seabrook’s head hurt. The pounding he took from his teammates, who thumped his helmet like a bongo while 22,103 delirious fans danced along to the beat, combined with the giddy delirium and head-spinning drama of an unforgettable Game 7, left him barely able to formulate his thoughts.

“I, uh, I’m sorry, I think I got punched in the head too many times,” he said with a weary smile.

Hard to blame him. Who could sum up THAT game in one pithy soundbite, anyway?

Seabrook’s shot from the high slot ticked off Niklas Kronwall’s stick and into the net 3:35 into overtime Wednesday night, giving the Blackhawks an indescribable 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. It capped a stirring comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. It sent the Hawks into the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings.

And it rendered what could have gone down as one of the most controversial moments in Chicago sports history a mere footnote. With 1:47 left in the third period — a period in which the Hawks found themselves on their heels after Henrik Zetterberg tied the game at 1-1 just 26 seconds in, equalizing Patrick Sharp’s second-period goal — Niklas Hjalmarsson stepped into a shot from the top of the left circle and drilled it past Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard.

The crowd roared with glee, but soon roared with anger upon the realization that the goal had been disallowed — the third Hawks goal to be waved off in the series. Referee Stephen Walkom had blown his whistle a fraction of a second before Hjalmarsson’s shot went in, as Brandon Saad was called for a roughing minor for a quick retaliatory facewash after being dumped into the boards and dropped on the ice by Kyle Quincey.

As the stunned Hawks gathered themselves during the overtime intermission, an angry, defiant Jonathan Toews addressed his team.

“I said, ‘We’ll beat them 3-1,’” the captain recalled. “We were obviously pretty pissed off that the whistle blew right before that one went in. But we weren’t going to go away that way.”

And they didn’t. Dave Bolland drilled Gustav Nyquist along the boards to spring Seabrook, and Seabrook capped his own personal comeback from a poor start — and his team’s — with what he said was the biggest goal of his career.

The Hawks leapt into each other’s arms after that, the mentally taxing, emotionally draining, physically exhausting series finally behind them — an uncertain offseason delayed, a crushing failure staved off in character-revealing fashion. After seven tense games, after facing three elimination games, after celebrating the game-winning goal twice, Hawks-Wings — the game, the series, the rivalry for all intents and purposes — was finally over.

OK, now. Halfway there.

That’s the funny thing about apocalyptic, earth-stopping showdowns. It’s only the apocalypse for the loser. The earth keeps spinning for the winner. And by booting Detroit off to the Eastern Conference, the Hawks reached only the midway point in their quest to hoist the Stanley Cup.

Up next: the Kings, a fast, physical and skilled team with a red-hot goalie in Jonathan Quick and the experience of winning it all last season. The Hawks go right back to work on Saturday, for a late-afternoon Game 1 matinee at the United Center. Game 2 comes the very next day. No rest for the weary. And no rest wanted.

“It’s too early to go home,” Toews said. “We don’t want to go home yet. We want to keep playing hockey for another month. We enjoy going on the road and playing Mario Kart and being together. There’s nowhere else to be right now.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.