Coming into the Western Conference Finals against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks knew the road ahead wouldn’t be easy. But on Friday in Game 3, the Hawks proved to themselves that they can handle their fair share of adversity, besting Detroit 4-3 in overtime and potentially saving their season.
For a while, it looked like everything was falling apart for the Hawks: they lost their leading scorer from the regular season, Martin Havlat, to a hit by Niklas Kronwall in the first period; they let a three-goal lead slip away in the second as Detroit scored three unanswered tallies; and on top of all that, they lost Nikolai Khabibulin to a lower-body injury, forcing Cristobal Huet into net even though he hadn't seen game action since April 11.
Yet despite everything that went wrong, the Hawks remained positive through some of the most trying times of their postseason.
“When we came into the locker room tied 3-3, it was a tough place to be knowing what we just gave away,” said Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville. “But the atmosphere was good heading into the third, and we never said 'die.'”
“If there were two guys you don’t want to lose in a game, it was probably those two,” said Patrick Sharp
, who scored the game-winner in the extra frame. “But we have a lot of guys who can contribute in here. I think we played some of our best hockey after that third [Detroit] goal.”
A major factor in the turnaround was the stellar play of Huet, who relieved the injured Khabibulin and held the Red Wings’ offense scoreless through more than a period of play, stopping all six shots he faced despite a six-week layoff.
“[Huet] should be really commended for his diligence and dedication for the last month and change,” Quenneville said. “He works his tail off every day, staying sharp and competing in practice. Because of that effort, he looked really comfortable out there.”
“I don’t know you could have a more pressure-filled situation than what Huey walked in to tonight,” Sharp said. “He made some big saves; he was huge for us.”
With the win, the Hawks are back in the best-of-seven series, trailing Detroit 2-1 with another home game scheduled for Sunday.
“It was certainly a big win,” Quenneville said. “We’ve done well at home all year. Now, we have to take this momentum into our next game and try to do the same things [we did tonight].”