Signs of life followed by being utterly dominated: the Chicago Blackhawks defend home ice in their first home Western Conference Final game since 1995 and follow it up by being blown out by the Detroit Red Wings, who now lead the series 3-1.

Western Conference Final Series

Game 1: DET 5, CHI 2

Game 2: DET 3, CHI 2 (OT)

Game 3: CHI 4, DET 3 (OT)

Game 4: DET 6, CHI 1

Game 5: @ Detroit, Wed. 5/27, 7:30 p.m. ET

*Game 6: @ Chicago, Sat. 5/30, 8:00 p.m. ET

*Game 7: @ Detroit, Mon. 6/1, 7:30 p.m. ET

* if necessary

Game 3

May 22, 2009

Detroit Red Wings 3
Chicago Blackhawks 4

The Chicago Blackhawks, fueled by a wild and raucous crowd in the United Center, won their first home Western Conference Finals game since 1995, winning in overtime after surviving a second period onslaught by the Detroit Red Wings. The series is now 2-1 in favor of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings. However, the Blackhawks lost one of their most potent forwards this offseason early in the first period.

The first period went off with some fireworks, as over 20,500 rose to their feet in the “Madhouse on Madison II”. At 8:45 in the first period, with Detroit’s Dan Cleary in the box for a 4-minute double minor for high sticking, Patrick Sharp tipped in a slap shot by Brent Seabrook for his sixth goal of the post season to give the home team a 1-0 lead. One minute and fifteen seconds later, Andrew Laad bested Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood on a rebound stuff-in to give the Blackhawks a 2 goal lead.

Chicago continued to press hard, to obtain their third goal of the game, when a vicious hit occurred. Martin Havlat attempted to control a puck passed towards him that ended up in his skates. In the brief moment Havlat took to look down and find the puck, Detroit defender Niklas Kronwall closed in. Kronwall, known throughout the league for his physical play, appeared to lead with his shoulder while delivering a crushing hit on Havlat. A scrum ensued after the hit, while Havlat lay motionless near the bottom of the pile.
When the proverbial dust settled, referees Dave Jackson and Dan O’Halloran handed out a 5-minute interference major penalty and a game misconduct to Kronwall, who ended the game as a -1 from 7 shifts with a total of 5:24 in ice time.

Chicago came out into the second period wanting to add to their lead and did so 0:45 in as Sammy Pahlsson was credited with the third goal of the game and his second of the post season.

However, the Detroit Red Wings are not a team to roll over and give up. Tonight was no exception. Nicklas Lidstrom (14:38 of the second period; power play goal), Dan Cleary (17:10 of the second period; even strength) and Jonathan Ericsson (19:01 of the second period; even strength) scored for the Red Wings.

Chicago netminder Nikolai Khabibulin was pulled after allowing 3 goals on 24 shots and replaced by Christobal Huet. Huet allowed no goals while making six saves in his relief appearance.

The third period had many “near goals” by both sides, but no one could tickle the twine. This game was heading to overtime.

The crowd, initially stunned into silence during the second period, returned to life in brief spurts in the third regulation period. In over time, they brought the United Center roof down with their excitement.

A mere 1:52 into the Patrick Sharp wristed his 7th goal of the post season past Chris Osgood.

“I think I got one in double overtime once in the minors and in college,” said Sharp to reporters after the 4-3 Blackhawks victory. “But to do it in front of our home fans … it was pretty electric all night long. The fans weren’t too happy with the three-goal letdown, but it was pretty loud when that puck went in. It was a great feeling.”

The Blackhawks look to even the series on Sunday, but may have to do without Martin Havlat, pending medical examinations, and without Nikolai Khabibulin, who was initially said to be ill, then listed as “day-to-day” with a lower body injury.

Game 4

May 24, 2009

Detroit Red Wings 6
Chicago Blackhawks 1

Hopes of winning two in a row against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings were high when the Chicago Blackhawks heard that not only would the Red Wings take the ice without Pavel Datsyuk, but without six time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, who was scratched due to a “lower-body injury”. Joining Datsyuk (bruised/sore foot and thigh) and Lidstrom (“lower body injury”) in the press box would also be Kris Draper, who is nursing a sore groin. Even still, the Red Wings played hard, struck often, and ended up with a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 6-1 trouncing of the Blackhawks in front of a stunned United Center crowd.

Detroit Red Wings RW Marian Hossa, who has been fairly quiet throughout most of the playoffs, scored his 5th goal of the post season, a shorthanded tally at 8:41 of the first period while fellow Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg watched from the penalty box serving a 2-minute holding penalty. Just over ten minutes later, Johan Franzen scored his 10th of the post season with 21 seconds remaining in the first period.

Christobal Huet stood between the pipes on Sunday afternoon for the Blackhawks, replacing a reportedly injured Nikolai Khabibulin. Huet gave up 4 goals on 17 shots, including two goals on 3 shots in the second period alone. He was replaced by third string goaltender Corey Crawford for nearly 16 minutes in the second period before coming back out for the third frame of the game. Crawford, the number one netminder for the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs, allowed one goal on seven shots in relief of Huet. Upon Huet’s return, the Red Wings sent 9 shots on goal, 8 of which Huet was able to stop.

The only goal of the evening for the Blackhawks was scored by Jonathan Toews, his 7th of the post season while on the power play after Detroit defenseman Brett Lebda was sent to the sin bin for delay of game (puck over the glass).

Martin Havlat returned to play after being knocked momentarily unconscious by a brutal, but clean, hit from Detroit defenseman Nicklas Kronwall. Kronwall was assessed a 5-minute penalty for interference and was ejected from game 3. Havlat played 7:59 in 10 shifts, registered one shot and was a -1 for the afternoon.

Valtteri Filppula scored a power play goal in the second period for the Red Wings, while Hossa added his second of the game. Henrik Zetterberg scored two power play goals, one at 7:42 of the second period, and 12:47 of the third period. Brian Rafalski had a three assist night, and Niklas Kronwall, booed every time he touched the puck by the United Center crowd, had two helpers on the afternoon.

Chris Chelios, age 47, who has played hockey for longer than many of the young stars of the Chicago Blackhawks have been alive, dressed in place of Lidstrom. However, “Cheerios” only played 4:37 in 6 shifts on the ice.

Chris Osgood allowed one goal on 19 shots. Midway through the second period, in a bid to get Osgood some rest after the Red Wings had a 5-1 lead, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock pulled Osgood in favor of backup netminder Ty Conklin. Conklin made 9 saves in the third period.

In all the Red Wings had 33 shots on goal, six of which entered the net while the Blackhawks sent 28 shots to Osgood and Conklin with only one making it past the goal line into the net.

With this crushing 6-1 victory, the Red Wings take a commanding 3-1 series lead back home to the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI needing only one more victory to send them on a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.