Red Wings-Blackhawks: Game Three, Game, Set, Match (Penalty)

Keith SheltonAnalyst IMay 23, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 22:  Martin Havlat #24 of the Chicago Blackhawks checked hard to the ice by Niklas Kronwall #55 of the Detroit Red Wings during the first period of Game Three of the Western Conference Championship Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 22, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jim Prisching/Getty Images)

Martin Havlat may have forgotten what Niklas Kronwall's job is. I'm talking before he was knocked into next week.

A fine hockey game was played Friday night between the Red Wings and the Blackhawks that featured many of the things that make hockey great to watch. Unfortunately something else overshadowed an otherwise great game. 

The Chicago Blackhawks playing in front of their raucous home crowd, jumped out to 2-0 lead in the first, with Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd scoring goals just over a minute apart. Then they went up 3-0 less than a minute into the second period on Pahlsson's shot.

What is unfortunate is that Chicago was given a five minute long powerplay in the first period from a confusing call.

The puck trickled along the boards to Martin Havlat's feet. Havlat looked down at the puck and the next thing he saw was Nik Kronwall slamming into him with the force of a fright train.

BAM! Don't put your head down when I'm on the ice, is what that hit seemed to say.

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You're kicked out of the game, is what the referee said.

Upon clarification by the NHL, Havlat did not have the puck in play, therefore it was an illegal hit.

Except...the puck was at Havlat's feet. So apparently NHL players are now given grace periods to react with the puck.

Fact is, there was no boarding here, there may have been cause for a roughing call, but a game misconduct? That's what you give to players who use their sticks as weapons or hit a guy when he's down.

Kronwall just did what he does best, knocked the guy into next week. It's unfortunate that Havlat got hurt on the hit, but that's hockey.

The Blackhawks throwing punches after multiple stoppages of play in the offensive zone? Well, I guess that's also hockey, but apparently those are allowed, and punishing checks just aren't.

On the ensuing five minute long major powerplay, Detroit already without Kronwall and Datsyuk, two of their best penalty killers, had Lidstrom break his stick. Recipe for disaster.

Still, Detroit would have retribution in this game. Down 3-0, just over 14 minutes into the second period, the rest of Detroit's defense stepped up for the loss of Kronwall.

Lidstrom, Ralfaski, and Ericsson, all defensemen, all scored in a span of 4:40 seconds to tie the game. You couldn't draw that up any better if it was scripted. Marian Hossa got himself back on the score sheet with two assists in that timespan as well.

Tie Game.

Khabibulin was pulled in favor of Christoble Huet, which actually proved to be a good decision.

Both teams stifled each other in a cautious third period and the game headed into overtime with the series on the line.

I give the young Blackhawks a lot of credit for not only realizing the stakes, not only making up for their second period lethargy, but for coming up clutch when the stakes were the highest.

Patrick Sharp scored his second goal of the night less than two minutes into overtime and Chicago will live to see Game Five.

If Sharp doesn't score that goal, and the Red Wings went up 3-0 in this series, it would be over in four games. The Blackhawks knew it, they did something about it.

Now, Chicago will find themselves in an opportunistic position. I've twice predicted this series would be over in five games, but if Chicago can win Game Four, the series will surely go seven games.

Don't think Chicago isn't capable of winning a Game Five in Detroit, or staving off elimination in a Game Six in Chicago. They are.

Detroit has never been a team that lets the bad calls get them down (or Jeremy Roenick for that matter) The thing to watch will be if Kronwall tones down his play for Game Four.

For the sake of good hockey, let's hope not.


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