The timing couldn’t have been better.
Samuel Pahlsson's long, strange trip to Chicago hit its high point Friday with a key goal and a game-winning assist for two crucial points in what was his best game as a Blackhawk.
With a deft deflection of Duncan Keith
's slapper early in the second period for his second goal of the playoffs and a brilliant assist on Patrick Sharp
's slam-dunk overtime winner, Pahlsson’s contributions were invaluable.
"That was just an amazing sequence," Sharp said of his OT winner in Chicago's 4-3 win over Detroit in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals . "The prior shift was really putting on the pressure and was really on the net. Matt Walker was causing trouble in the offensive zone. Dustin (Byfuglien) kept the puck active. And Sammi's pass through the slot gave me a great backdoor chance. I just had to make sure not to whiff."
The victory cut Detroit's lead in the best-of-7 series to 2-1. Falling behind 3-0 to the defending Cup champs would have been a sure ticket to an early summer -- something that Pahlsson, on the short list of Blackhawks who have raised the Cup in the past, was well aware of.
“If we go down three games, the series is over,” he said. “That’s a hole you just can’t climb out of. Now we’re down just one game and can get right back even."
They'll try to do that Sunday afternoon at the United Center, where a sellout crowd of more than 22,000 will be roaring its support.
After being acquired in a March 4 deadline deal with the Anaheim Ducks, sitting for another two weeks while recovering from the last stages of mononucleosis, then slowly working his way into the mix in Chicago, rarely has Pahlsson contributed so significantly to a win as he did on Friday.
"It’s been an adjustment, sure," Pahlsson said of the trade and getting acclimated to a new team and a new town. "It was difficult coming to the team late in the season, being sick and unable to help in the ways they needed me."
Pahlsson's teammates were excited to have a player with 65 games of playoff experience join them. Even while he was recovering from mono, he took on a mentoring and leadership role within the dressing room.
"Sammi's a great guy to have here," second-year star Patrick Kane
said. "His advice right off was to not get too overwhelmed with things. Every little effort counts, but no single mistake is going to lose a game for you. For those of us who haven’t felt some of the playoff pressure before, it helps to be able to take a step back and see a bigger picture."
The club’s immediate acceptance of and respect for him meant that Pahlsson, traded in-season for the second time in his eight-year career, could move right past some of the usual nagging worries that accompany a trade and simply focus on the task at hand: winning.
"Fitting in with these guys was my last concern," Pahlsson said. "I love everything about being here: the atmosphere around the team, the guys I'm playing with, the city. They gave me time to get back into shape, and I've been just trying to keep it simple and do my thing. I just feel great because I'm contributing to some of the biggest wins they’ve seen around here in a long time."
Author: Brett Ballantini | NHL.com Correspondent