You can’t stop Matt Walker; you can only hope to contain him.
In the most unlikely of events, the much-maligned Matt Walker had a terrific shift in overtime. He took a puck along the boards, skated behind the net, and started a cycle with Patrick Sharp. When Niklas Lidstrom snapped his stick on Sharp, the puck came back to the point.
Barker saw Walker alone on the far side. Walker took the lane given to him and blasted a low hard one on net. The rebound sat around in front, Sammy Pahlsson made a heads up play to feed Sharp on the weak side wing and that was all she wrote.
Winning the game was the biggest thing, but the Hawks certainly didn’t score any style points with this one.
After Gordie Howe Dan Cleary gave the Hawks a 4 minute power play with a high stick early in the first, Dave Bolland received a cross ice pass from Havlat, spotted a wide open Brent Seabrook, and he blasted it toward the net. Sharp got a piece of it and the Hawks notched the first goal of the game for the third time this series.
Just a minute later, Andrew Ladd picked up a loose puck and fired it low. Chris Osgood made the first save, but he coughed up a juicy rebound and Ladd squeezed it through his legs to give the Hawks a dreaded two goal lead.
Five minutes later, the Hawks had their opportunity to put Detroit away for good. Niklas Kronwall received a five minute major for absolutely destroying Martin Havlat. The Hawks couldn’t get anything going and they left the door open for a Detroit comeback.
Then in the second period, Duncan Keith pinched to keep a loose puck in the Detroit end. After his shot hit Pahlsson’s stick, it went through Osgood’s legs and the Hawks went up three with 39 minutes to go.
It looked like Detroit was more than willing to toss this game out and start over in Game Four.
The Hawks, meanwhile, decided it was a good idea to take penalty after penalty and the Wings started to control the play. They killed off the first two penalties but when Dave Bolland was called for a ticky-tack hook, it was only a matter of time.
A minute and a half into the power play, Marian Hossa found Lidstrom with a little room and he blasted a shot past Khabibulin. On the way to the net, the puck glanced off Pahlsson’s skate and Khabibulin didn’t have much of a chance.
For the remainder of the period, the Hawks treated their defensive zone like a fire drill. Guys were running around trying to cover other people’s assignments. Detroit’s weak side point was wide open every time and what looked like a blowout, turned into a 3-3 game within five minutes.
The mystery man, Cristobal Huet, came in for the third period after Khabibulin aggravated…something, most likely his groin after he spent the majority of the second period sprawling all over the crease.
Both teams were on the defensive for most of the period but with about four minutes left in the period, it seemed like the Hawks looked at the scoreboard and realized it wasn’t, in fact, the end of the world. From there, Kane-Toews-Byfuglien put together the most sustained pressure of the period. Every shift after that, the Hawks had a solid chance to end it in regulation.
It never happened.
In overtime, the Hawks continued the pressure from the previous period. The Wings were forced into a couple of icings and after Matt Walker decided it was a good time to be Bobby Orr, the Hawks made this a series again.
Leftover Thoughts from Game 3
—The majority of the next 36 hours will be dedicated to deciding if Kronwall’s hit on Havlat was dirty. The Hawks obviously feel it was; Detroit disagrees. Kronwall certainly didn’t let up on the hit and the puck was never on Havlat’s stick. Kronwall also led with his forearm to Havlat’s jaw. With that being said, Havlat got caught with his head down in no-man’s land.
Was it a cheap shot? With my rose-colored Hawks glasses on, yes. As an objective observer, no. But I thought the referees absolutely made the right call by giving him the game misconduct. If they don’t give him the boot at that point, there’s a very good chance this game turns into World War III. Ben Eager would have probably finished the game wearing Kronwall on his helmet.
–Nikolai Khabibulin has already been ruled out for Game 4, according to Comcast SportsNet’s Josh Mora, so the once forgotten Cristobal Huet is back. Before everybody bemoans this turn of events, let’s look at the facts.
Khabibulin has had two “playoff game stealing” performances: Game 1 and 6 against Calgary. In every other game, he has been perfectly average. The guy with the 92% save percentage of the regular season is gone. So far in the playoffs, his percentage is a mediocre 88%.
It speaks volumes for how far this team has gotten without the superb goaltending we all thought they’d need to advance.
That all being said, this has been a wacky year for the Hawks and their goalies. Every time it seemed the most desolate, that’s when their goalies came up with a game-changing performance. So don’t bust out the razor blades just yet.
–I guess it would be silly of me not to acknowledge Matt Walker for his end of game theatrics. I’ve been one of his harsher critics this year, but that was a great play he made in overtime to keep the play alive. Not only that, but he led the team with 4 shots on net and made the recognition that the winger covering him had no stick, so he had a wide open lane to get his shot through. Big ups to Big Country. Now, please don’t think that means you’re Brian Campbell.
–Was the camera operator for Versus tonight a drunk freshman from Columbia College? All night, viewers had no idea where the puck was thanks to the inability of cameraman to find the play. It certainly didn’t help that the only proof we had Patrick Sharp’s game winner went in the net was because of Sharp’s reaction.