The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after winning Game 3 of the Western Conference final in OT on Patrick Sharp's goal. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Detroit Red Wings absolutely got jobbed on the terrible major and game misconduct penalty to Niklas Kronwall, but the Chicago Blackhawks survived a scare and were deserving of their 4-3 victory in Game 3 Friday.
In case you haven't seen it by now, Detroit was trailing 2-0 in the first period when Kronwall flattened Martin Havlat with a perfectly timed shoulder check that knocked the Blackhawk out cold.
Predictably, the Hawks bench went wild and Chicago players swarmed Kronwall as Havlat lay prone, exposed and unaware beneath the skirmish.
The immediate reaction of referees Dave Jackson and Dan O'Halloran was proper - no arm in the air, no call. Why would there be? It was as clean as the hockey gods could have blueprinted - stiff shoulder against player with puck. But for some reason - perhaps because Havlat was knocked out or perhaps because the game was in Chicago - Kronwall was given a major and game misconduct.
The Hawks were unable to capitalize on the five-minute power play, but did go up 3-0 before the Wings battled back to tie the game without Kronwall.
Did the Wings lose the game because of the officiating blunder? Probably not. A lot happened before and after incident, but it was a shame nonetheless.
At the very least, it was nice to see three of the game's best TV analysts - Craig Simpson, Mike Milbury and Kelly Hrudey on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada - chastise Jackson and O'Halloran for the brutal call and commend Kronwall for the textbook hit.
Yes, it was unfortunate Havlat surely sustained a concussion and didn't return to action, but that's hockey. Moreover, the replays clearly showed Havlat glanced up twice at Kronwall in the second prior to the big hit.
The point was well made by CBC's P.J. Stock that all three of Detroit's comeback goals in the second period came on tips or close screens in front of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
It wasn't just good planning and execution on the part of Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom, Dan Cleary and company, it also looked as though Chicago defenders were advised not to concern themselves with the Wing on the doorstep.
The Hawks defensemen were busy trying to block passing lanes and limit puck movement. The plot backfired badly and Khabibulin was gone after the second period.
With Cristobal Huet playing his first game in six weeks, the Blackhawks picked up their play in the third period and overtime. Huet wasn't really tested.
Speculation was Khabibulin was injured or not feeling well because third-stringer Corey Crawford was dressed and on the bench for the rest of the game. Could be Hawks coach Joel Quenneville just wanted to give him a mental respite.
It'll be interesting to see which Hawks goalie starts Game 4.
THE KIDS AREN’T ALRIGHT
For weeks we've been marvelling at the maturity of the young, playoff-inexperienced Blackhawks, namely Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Well, they looked absolutely spooked after Detroit's comeback from a 3-0 deficit. Kane hasn't done much all series, but hasn't really been getting quality ice time until the third period Friday. And Toews has done a great job in the faceoff circle, but his overall play has been spotty by his standards.
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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