The Chicago Blackhawks overcame wasting an early three-goal advantage to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in overtime and revive their hopes in the Western Conference Final series on Friday. Chicago winger Patrick Sharp secured the victory with his second goal of the game, and seventh of the play-offs, a snap-shot past Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood less than two minutes into extra time to cut Detroit's advantage to just one game as the score in the series now stands at 2-1.
After dominating early with quick powerplay goals from Sharp and Andrew Ladd, and a third by Samuel Pahlsson early in the second period, Chicago watched the defending Stanley Cup champions seize the momentum back. The Red Wings turned on a impressive stretch of offence, much of it on powerplays, to tie the game through goals from Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Jonathan Ericsson in a five-minute stretch late in the second period.
"I was kicking myself in the butt for not calling time-out at 3-2," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville of his team's brief collapse. Despite the Red Wings rally, the young Blackhawks team had remained upbeat, Sharp said. "There wasn't too much said after the second period," he said. "We've been in that situation before, and realised that carrying any negativity into the third period was not going to help us."
A defensive struggle left the teams tied after a scoreless third period before Sharp stepped up to give Chicago a chance to tie up the best-of-seven series on home ice today. "We had great pressure for about 30 seconds, and we were able to get the chance we were looking for," Sharp said. The Blackhawks top goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin left the game after the second period with what was termed a lower body injury. His condition is "day-to-day," Quenneville said.
That gave back-up Cristobal Huet, 33, a moment any Broadway understudy would relish - stepping in for his first game time in six weeks for the team's most critical minutes of the play-offs so far. "His diligence and dedication in the last month should be commended," Quenneville said of Huet. "He was hoping this opportunity would come come and he deserves a lot of credit. His patience and his poise helped us get back in track."
Chicago lost Martin Havlat after the Czech took a hard first-period hit from Detroit's Niklas Kronwall, earning the Red Wings defenceman a game misconduct. Detroit head coach Mike Babcock said the penalty was "absolutely the wrong call". "I'd be shocked if the league took further action on Kronwall," he said. "I'd be absolutely shocked." * Reuters