CHICAGO — Brent Seabrook’s first goal of the playoffs couldn’t have come at a better time.
Seabrook scored 3 minutes, 35 seconds into overtime, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday at the United Center.
The Blackhawks advance to the conference finals to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. Game 1 is Saturday in Chicago.
The game marked the final intra-conference meeting between two of the NHL’s original six teams. Detroit will move to the Eastern Conference next season.
Fans from both teams couldn’t have asked for a better Game 7, as it was a classic, neither team giving an inch.
Chicago came out with its big guns, captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, in the overtime period, seemingly ready to throw everything the team had to try to put the game away quickly.
When that failed to work, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville went to the bench, and Seabrook came through in almost storybook fashion in what has been a storybook-like season thus far and will now continue. The Blackhawks finished the regular season with the NHL’s best record.
After Chicago took a 1-0 lead early in the second period, the Red Wings tied it 26 seconds into the third when captain Henrik Zetterberg scored his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Chicago appeared to have broken the tie with 1:47 left when Niklas Hjalmarsson put the puck in the net, but the goal was denied because officials whistled penalties against Detroit’s Kyle Quincey and Chicago’s Brandon Saad, both for roughing.
The controversial call seemed to stun both teams. Both players were tangling with each other in front of Chicago’s bench and were nowhere near the action or were part of the play that resulted in the goal. In most instances, the goal would have superseded the penalties, but inexplicably not this time.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville attempted to ask referee Stephen Walkom to explain the ruling but was snubbed. Quenneville dallied around the Chicago bench at the end of the third period, again trying and ask the officiating crew questions about the call, but he was unsuccessful.
After a scoreless first period, Chicago broke through at 1:08 of the second when Patrick Sharp pushed the puck past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.
It was Sharp’s team-leading seventh goal of the playoffs, and it came from a difficult angle. Sharp took a pass from Marian Hossa to the left of Howard at the red line and somehow chipped it in.
In the first period, as had been the case for much of the series, neither team could capitalize on power-play situations. The Blackhawks were 0-for-2 in the man advantage, while Detroit came up empty when Chicago was short-handed due to penalty.
Chicago came into the game having rallied back from a 3-1 series deficit to force the seventh and deciding game.
The Hawks also were looking to increase their 8-7 all-time playoff series record against the Red Wings. All told, Chicago came into Wednesday’s game with a 42-38 in 80 postseason games against Detroit.
This was the teams’ first meeting in the postseason since 2009, when the Red Wings won the Western Conference finals in five games.
The last time the Blackhawks defeated the Red Wings in postseason play was in 1992, when they swept Detroit in four games.
NOTES: Attendance was 22,103. Surprisingly, it was just the Blackhawks’ fourth-largest crowd of the season. Even so, some media reports claimed ticket brokers were asking — and getting — up to $1,000 per seat. … Even President Barack Obama, who was in Chicago for a fundraiser, showed his Windy City partisanship, telling donors that he was going to keep his comments brief because he was looking forward to watching the Hawks beat the Red Wings. Ironically, one of the organizers of the fundraiser was a Detroit-area congressman. However, it’s likely several fans en route to the United Center were rather upset with Obama, whose motorcade from O’Hare Airport to downtown Chicago forced incoming traffic on the Kennedy Expressway and surrounding surface streets to come to a standstill, causing near-gridlock conditions in a mile in any direction leading to the arena. … Several Chicago sports celebrities were on hand to cheer the Hawks, including Bulls Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, White Sox slugger Paul Konerko and Cubs manager Dale Sveum and right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija.