The journey that took the Blackhawks through two head coaches, a game played outdoors on a baseball diamond and into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1995 has come to an end.
The Detroit Red Wings eliminated the Hawks from the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 5 Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings won the series 4-1 and advance to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup finals, won by Detroit.
Cristobal Huet, starting in goal for the Hawks in place of the injured Nikolai Khabibulin, was stellar, making 44 saves, but lost for the second consecutive game. The veteran made amends for a Game 4 performance when he was shelled, but was outdueled Wednesday night by Detroit's Chris Osgood, who earned the victory with 30 saves.
Darren Helm scored the game-winning goal 3 minutes 58 seconds into overtime to end the Hawks' season. Patrick Kane's goal with 7:07 remaining in the third period had tied it at 1-1 and sent the game into OT for the third time in the best-of-seven series.
"That was a battle out there," Huet said. "We gave everything we had. It was a tight game. Osgood made some good saves and they forced the puck to the net every time they had a chance. We can be proud of what we've done in that game and the series.
"I felt pretty bad after last game, but at the same time you can't do it without your players and the guys played hard [Wednesday] and made my job easier. I saw the puck better, I moved better and everything was clicking. Every time you don't win the Cup it's always a disappointment."
Huet did everything he could to avoid the disappointment by keeping the Hawks in the game during a first period when Detroit had 21 shots on goal.
"[Huet] was awesome," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "He made a lot of big saves, especially in the first period.
"We had chances and we might have been playing a little tentative in overtime. It's over now. Obviously, they're a better team. They beat us. It's tough to take right now. We had a long road the whole year and we went pretty far in the playoffs. We got a taste of getting close to the finals. It's over and done with now and we have to take some time to relax and look to improve upon this next year."
Huet's best effort came in the waning seconds of the third when, while lying on his stomach in the crease, kicked his leg up just as Johan Franzen shot the puck toward the open net.
Osgood matched Huet save for save, yielding only Kane's goal on a terrific individual effort when the winger skated around the Wings' Jiri Hudler and then beat Buffalo Grove's Brett Lebda before lifting a backhander over Osgood's left shoulder for his team-leading ninth goal of the postseason.
"We had a lot of good chances," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "[Osgood] found a way to make those saves. It's frustrating to take, but ... every guy played hard and every guy laid it on the line. It's tough to admit, you've got to give them credit for being the better team in this series."
After two scoreless periods, Dan Cleary's goal opened the scoring and came on the Wings' 34th shot of the game. Cleary redirected a shot by Lebda from inside the blue line.
Helm's goal came off a scramble in front and he tucked a loose puck into the net from near the right post setting off a wild celebration on the ice and in the stands.
"We blew them out one game, but by no means was it easy," Osgood said.
In addition to Khabibulin, the Hawks also played without top scorer Martin Havlat, who left Games 3 and 4 after taking big hits in both contests by Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart, respectively.
Detroit was also short-handed as star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom missed his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury and Pavel Datsyuk (foot) missed his third in a row.
"Everybody picked up the slack," said 47-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios, who played only because Detroit's blue line was so thin.
The Red Wings are matching up with Pittsburgh in what is the NHL's first Stanley Cup rematch since the Edmonton Oilers beat the New York Islanders in 1984 after losing to them the previous year.
"To have the opportunity against Pittsburgh should be a lot of fun," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun