Chicago Blackhawks' desperate third-period surge forces Game 7

Michael Frolik celebrates his third-period penalty-shot goal. (USATSI)
Michael Frolik celebrates his third-period penalty-shot goal. (USATSI)

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Desperation can do funny things to a man. For some, desperation leads to a clouded mind and a lack of judgment that leads to often costly mistakes. For others, desperation brings focus and a renewed sense of purpose.

For the Chicago Blackhawks, desperation was all they had left with 20 minutes to decide how that desperation would dictate their fate.

The Detroit Red Wings were up 2-1 heading into the third period thanks to an incredibly soft goal allowed by goalie Corey Crawford at the midway point of the second period. Additionally, Chicago had not asserted itself in any meaningful way throughout the first 40 minutes, which didn’t seem to bode well for the final frame.

But that’s when the desperation kicked in and that’s when the Blackhawks took control of Game 6.

It started less than a minute into the third period. Chicago established pressure in Detroit’s zone, with defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson each making key pinches to keep possession and the pressure on. Hjalmarsson’s pinch ended up leading to a turnover and the Chicago defenseman found a wide-open Michal Handzus in front, who didn’t miss to tie the game.

Chicago’s go-ahead goal again came via a turnover and good pressure on the puck in Detroit’s zone with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews battling along the boards. Toews, who forced the initial turnover, came away with the puck out of a corner battle and found big Bryan Bickell in front of the net, who made a good sturdy play at the netfront to shovel the loose puck over the goal line.

Those two goals were examples of what Chicago hadn’t been able to do for much of the series. They took advantage of the rare mistakes Detroit defensemen made in their own zone and were able to take control of the period and the game with good, hard plays.

The third Blackhawks goal of the period came in somewhat controversial fashion as Michael Frolik was awarded a penalty shot after being thwarted on a breakaway by the stick of Carlo Colaiacovo. By the letter of the law, it was the correct call, but how often is such a call made, particularly given the circumstances?

It was a bit of a lucky break for Chicago, but it was one that still had to be taken advantage of and Frolik did with his terrific backhanded shot past Jimmy Howard.

All three of those goals, which gave Chicago a 4-2 lead, came before the halfway point of the period, putting the Blackhawks in control for essentially  the first time at Joe Louis Arena, where the team has struggled mightily this series.

There was still half a period to play and as Chicago’s desperation dwindled with the lead, Detroit’s began to materialize. The Red Wings kept generating good opportunities and pressure, but then it was Chicago’s goaltender that showed some resiliency.

The goal Crawford gave up to Joakim Andersson in the second period could have sunk him, but he held strong throughout the game, making 35 stops including 17 in the second period and nine in the third.

Detroit never went away, however, getting a goal from Damien Brunner with the extra attacker on and just under a minute to play in regulation.

The final 52 seconds were controlled by the Blackhawks, however, recovering nicely from an incomplete effort throughout the latter half of the period.

Chicago has yet to play a complete game in this series. However, with its back against the wall, the NHL’s top team from the regular-season showed its teeth.

Now the series goes to a Game 7, where desperation bubbles into a 60-minute frenzy in which anything can happen. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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