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Seabrook a fitting hero for team that was written off

Hawks' potential seems limitless after surviving Red Wings series with unlikely comeback

David Haugh

In the Wake of the News

12:09 AM CDT, May 30, 2013

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As Brent Seabrook carried the puck deep into the Red Wings' zone in overtime of Game 7 on Wednesday night, strangely no Red Wings converged.

"When I have that much room, I usually screw up or trip and fall,'' Seabrook said.

This time, Seabrook put a hockey city on his back.

Seabrook fired a wicked wrist shot between the faceoff circles 3 minutes, 35 seconds into the extra session that ricocheted off defenseman Niklas Kronwall's shin and past goalie Jimmy Howard for the winning goal in the Blackhawks' epic 2-1 victory.

"I don't even know if I saw it go in. I just heard the horn going and the boys jumping up,'' Seabrook said. "It was a pretty exhausting game, but I think I was more tired during the celebration, guys dragging me down and pulling my head down.''

Keeping his head up when coach Joel Quenneville benched him earlier in the series allowed Seabrook to be in position to save the season. Fittingly, the player who was forgotten played the hero's role for the team that was written off after Game 4. It provided the type of unlikely comeback other sports towns enjoy. This was Chicago's turn.

"It's not the way you want to win a series, but you do what you've got to do,'' Jonathan Toews said. "It just goes to show the character we have on top of the ability and potential this team has.''

Never has that potential looked more limitless than after overcoming a Red Wings team that prepared the Hawks well for their next two rounds.

You just sensed the Wings would ferociously attack a one-goal deficit in the third period the way the Hawks had done to them at Joe Louis Arena. You just knew these Original Six rivals would produce a magnificent Game 7 that deserved to be decided in overtime.

The first Hawks-Wings Game 7 in 48 years was so good, it was worth the wait.

It was tied at 1 when Niklas Hjalmarsson scored the apparent go-ahead goal with 1:49 left, but officials inexplicably waved off the goal because of matching penalties behind the play, ruining parties in living rooms and barrooms everywhere. A crowd of 22,103 fans who didn't see the replay broke into a rude chant that showed what they thought of the officiating.

"I didn't get any explanation,'' Quenneville said of the bad call.

The reaction was much different after the Hawks' long-awaited first goal.

In a sequence worthy of a highlight tape or an instructional video, the Hawks took the lead when center Michael Handzus passed the puck to Marian Hossa to begin a 3-on-1 for the ages. Hossa patiently waited to hit a racing Patrick Sharp. Sharp did the rest, elevating the shot past Howard at the 1:08 mark of the second period.

"That was a fun goal to score,'' Sharp said.

Sharp's movie-star smile to celebrate the score never has made more Chicagoans go gaga. The delirium lasted for nearly a period.

Just 26 seconds into the third, Henrik Zetterberg turned a Hawks mistake into the equalizer. Veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya, reprising the Game 7 role of Chris Campoli in 2011, made a poor decision that allowed Wings winger Daniel Cleary to beat him to the puck. Cleary advanced it to Gustav Nyquist, who found Zetterberg in a perfect spot to freeze Hawks goalie Corey Crawford.

Suddenly, the air was sucked out of a building that was full of Chicago celebrities and athletes. But the confidence wasn't.

When the Hawks trailed the series 3-1, momentum and history were not on their side. But Toews was.

He never let the Hawks doubt themselves no matter how much everybody else in the city swore the hockey sky was falling. For a guy known for his seriousness, Toews projected a relaxed sense of calm. A looser Hawks team responded for three games as if it had nothing to lose.

Deep down, Quenneville knew better. Ignore everything he said; he knew the potential fallout of winning the Presidents' Trophy and exiting in the second round against the seventh seed. His actions spoke louder than any of his words.

Before the first of three elimination games, Quenneville reunited defensemen Duncan Keith and Seabrook, whose time he limited. Of more significance, he reassembled the Desperation Line of Toews, Sharp and Patrick Kane. The tinkering worked.

"We had to find ourselves again,'' Seabrook said.

Quenneville reintroduced them. Coach Q got outcoached by Mike Babcock in the first four games. The same wasn't true in the final three. He put his team where it should be: in position to keep playing.

"It's too early to go home,'' Toews said. "We want to play hockey another month.''

After Wednesday night, nobody expects anything less.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh