Stuart Shea | NHL.com Correspondent
The Chicago Blackhawks
waited seven years to get back to the playoffs. They needed just 12 seconds of overtime to go home with a victory.
Martin Havlat tied the game with 5:33 left in regulation, then scored a dozen seconds into overtime Thursday night as the Hawks returned to the playoffs with a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Havlat capitalized after Dave Bolland knocked down a clearing pass and dropped the puck for him just inside the blue line. Havlat skated into the high slot, and, with Andrew Ladd charging the net and making life miserable for Miikka Kiprusoff, zipped a wrist shot that the goaltender never saw into the net, sending the towel-waving crowd of 22,478 into pandemonium.
"It doesn't matter who scored the goal. We got the first game the hard way," Havlat said after the very sudden-death overtime. "I know Ladd was in front. I took the pass from Bolland and went to the net."
Havlat's goal tied for the third-fastest overtime goal in playoff history -- trailing only Montreal's 3-2 win over Calgary in Game 2 of the 1989 Stanley Cup Final on Brian Skrudland's goal at 9 seconds, and the New York Islanders' 4-3 series-deciding victory over the Rangers in the 1975 Preliminary round, a game decided on a J.P. Parise goal 11 seconds into OT.
Chicago's Pit Martin also scored at 12 seconds in 1972 against Pittsburgh.
It was a frustrating night for Flames coach Mike Keenan, who was unhappy that goaltender interference wasn't called on the game-winning goal. Ladd was being ridden by defenseman Jordan Leopold and made contact with Kiprusoff just as Havlat fired, but referees Eric Furlatt and Wes McCauley didn't call a penalty.
"I believe it was Ladd who did not try to stop his movement toward the net and that's goaltender interference," Keenan said. "However, the officials saw it different or didn't make the call because of the excitement of overtime."
The crowd was revved up for the Hawks' first postseason game since 2002. But the Flames did an excellent job of controlling the play in the opening period. They got the only goal when David Moss tapped in a loose puck at 8:38 and limited Chicago to only five shots on goal.
"We didn’t have the speed we were accustomed to having, but maybe we had the first-playoff-game jitters," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We picked up our pace as we progressed."
Chicago tied it at 13:17 of the second on an odd-looking goal by Cam Barker. The defenseman had his point shot blocked, but picked up the rebound and scored through a screen from the left boards.
But the Flames were still controlling the tempo and went back in front early in the third period after a bad pinch by Bolland led to a 2-on-1 break. Daymond Langkow carried into the Hawks' zone and found Michael Cammalleri for a wrist shot into a half-empty net at 3:54.
But the Hawks kept pushing, as Quenneville mixed and matched his forwards and had his defense pinch more often to generate some offense. It paid off when Havlat fired a shot that Kiprusoff stopped but couldn't hold, and the veteran winger rammed home the rebound to tie the game.
"In the third period they started activating their defense, pinching in; our team didn’t recover from that,” Keenan concluded. “We weren’t aggressive enough.”
Chicago won the regular-season series 4-0, outscoring the Flames 19-7, but Calgary's physical play from the outset showed that the regular season has little bearing once the postseason starts.
"We established a pretty good road game to start with, but we couldn't sustain it in the third period when it was most necessary," Keenan said. "And to win on the road, you have to be able to push back when there is a momentum shift. You look after the details and stay assertive and stay forceful in terms of your defensive posture and not get on your heels a little bit, which I think we did."
Quenneville was also happy with his team's physical effort after Chicago outhit the Flames 38-24.
"I thought there were some good hits," he said. "[Both teams are] respectful of what each other’s offense can do."
Quenneville was also pleased with his team's composure -- and the outcome.
"I thought our approach was good," he said. "We were relatively excited, at the same time composed. It's a lot of pressure on the home team carried into the first playoff game. You’re expected to win, and it's not an easy game to play. They want to come out and be spoilers. It was important that we held serve."
Defenseman Cam Barker, the Hawks’ #1 pick in 2004, enjoyed an outstanding offensive game. In addition to scoring the team’s first goal and assisting on Martin Havlat’s third-period game-tier, he also had an excellent shift halfway through the third period in which he got free to make two excellent shots that challenged Mkka Kiprusoff.
As they do every night, Calgary leaned heavily on its top blueliner, Dion Phaneuf. After leading the NHL in ice time logged this season, he played 8:36 in the first, 8:28 in the second, and 7:43 in the third…but he was outdone by Duncan Keith of Chicago, who led all players with 26:51 of ice time during the three regulation periods. Not only did Keith play his typical fine defense, blocking a game-high three shots, he also helped commandeer the offense from the blue line.
Patrick Sharp, just back from a knee injury, took control on a four-minute penalty kill during the first period, twice clearing pucks from the Chicago zone and helping to completely neutralize Calgary’s power play. He also went hard to the net late in the third and took a faceful of glove from Mikka Kiprusoff.
Marty Havlat's two goals gave him 16 in 52 career playoff games. He hadn't appeared in the postseason since 2006.
Both teams predicted a tough, physical game, and there was plenty of hitting -- Dustin Byfuglien, Dion Phaneuf, Adam Burish, Andrew Ladd, and Olli Jokinen
delivered memorable and numerous hits. But the game never turned chippy, and there were no fights and few penalties.