Seabrook saves Blackhawks, ref from themselves

The celebration was on in the locker room as it continued in the stands at the UC.

Players smiled, coaches shook hands and reporters asked questions about the amazing comeback from down 3-1 in the series.

Blackhawks players smiled and exhaled, feeling equal parts relief and absolution after surviving a round that many had mistakenly thought would be easy — apparently including the players themselves.

But Duncan Keith stood quietly, his back to the melee, and put it into perspective.

“We have to learn from our mistakes,” Keith said. “We definitely showed character coming back from down 3-1. We knew Game 7 would be the toughest game and we battled and overcame.

“But we have to know that we need to start better against the Kings. We can’t go down 3-1 again and expect to win that series.”

No, they can’t.

With a 2-1 victory over Detroit in overtime Wednesday night, the Hawks became just the 21st team in 230 attempts to rebound from a 3-1 series deficit and advance to the next round.

They will face the defending Stanley Cup champs beginning Saturday at home, and they best hold serve, which means starting the series on time.

“That’s not a situation you want to be in, down 3-1,” said Patrick Sharp. “But give credit to the coaches and the players in here for fighting back.”

OK, full faith and credit to the Hawks’ comeback, with the understanding that the Kings are big, mean and physical, along with having depth and the best goalie in the NHL. If the Hawks don’t think they need to play like it’s Game 7 from the start of the next series, they will find themselves facing a quick exit again.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Keith said. “It only gets harder now. That’s a great hockey team.”

Facing a team that few would consider great, the Hawks appeared to have the game in hand with 1:47 left in regulation when Andrew Shaw found Niklas Hjalmarsson trailing late and Hjalmarsson blistered a shot past Jimmy Howard for what seemed at the time to be a 2-1 Hawks advantage.

But the goal was disallowed by one of the NHL’s worst referees, Stephen Walkom, who consistently makes himself a part of the game — a la Joey Crawford or Angel Hernandez.

Walkom watched Kyle Quincey beat up Brandon Saad on the Detroit bench and throw him to the ice before Justin Abdelkader kicked Saad in the head, at which point Walkom blew the whistle, took away the goal and gave Saad and Quincey matching minors.

Saad’s was apparently for receiving.

“I didn’t really see what happened,’’ Keith said. “I just know I heard the whistle before the puck went in.”

But instead of packing it in, the Hawks fought through it.

“Before overtime, we pretty much said what we said for the last three games,” said goaltender Corey Crawford. “Stick with it. It’s our time.”

It was their time in OT, and it was a huge hit by Dave Bolland near center ice that sprung Brent Seabrook, who fired a puck off Niklas Kronwall and past Howard only 3:35 into the extra period.

“Anything can change a game, even a little play,’’ Bolland said. “Sometimes you can just make a hit to make a play, and that’s the kind of thing we talk about in here.”

Seabrook’s goal not only saved Walkom from infamy, he saved the Hawks’ season with a simple play.

“It wasn’t pretty. I just threw it at the net,” Seabrook said. “Joel (Quenneville) always talks about getting pucks to the net and anything can happen.”

In the end, it was a simple play that got the Hawks into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2010, but it was a play the Hawks didn’t make enough of at any point in the series with Detroit.

Maybe they really have learned from what happened against the Red Wings, that they didn’t make enough simple plays, play with enough desperation and take the body until they were down 3-1 and with their backs against the wall.

“We’re gonna enjoy this for a day and get some rest,” Keith said. “Then, we have to learn from this. I think we will.”

They can prove that starting Saturday afternoon.

ŸListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

For Hawks, historic cardiac comeback

Images: Blackhawks vs. Red Wings, Game Seven

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