It came down to overtime in a crucial Game 7, but the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1, advancing the team to the Western Conference Finals.
The sellout crowd of 22,103 roared as Brent Seabrook skated over to the boards and was mobbed by his teammates after sending a wrist shot past goalie Jimmy Howard's glove 3:35 into overtime.
The Blackhawks, who had the best record in the NHL regular season, rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to reach the Western Conference finals against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
For just the second time in NHL history, the final four teams remaining in the playoffs are the four most recent Stanley Cup winners. Chicago captured the Cup in 2010.
Seabrook picked up a loose puck and skated in on Howard through the middle of the ice, with Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall in front of him. His shot appeared to hit Kronwall's leg before it sailed into the left side of the net for the Chicago defenseman' first goal of the postseason.
"I was just trying to step up," Seabrook said. "The coaches have been on me all year to get up and jump into the play."
Howard put his arm around Kronwall, who was down on one knee, and tried to console him while the Blackhawks celebrated.
It was quite a change from the end of the third period, when the Blackhawks thought they had scored the go-ahead goal. But it was waved off with less than 2 minutes remaining by referee Stephen Walkom, who called a pair of penalties behind the play.
Henrik Zetterberg scored the tying goal in the third period for Detroit, which beat second-seeded Anaheim in seven games in the first round. Howard finished with 33 saves.
Pavel Datsyuk was held without a point, closing out an ineffective series for the Russian star.
Chicago made it to the conference finals for the first time since it won the title in 2010 and will host Los Angeles in Game 1 on Saturday night. The Kings advanced with a 2-1 victory over San Jose in Game 7 on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh will host Boston in the opener of the East finals on Saturday.
Chicago was one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup when the playoffs began, storming to the Presidents' Trophy during the lockout-shortened season. The Blackhawks then boosted their credentials with a five-game win over Minnesota in the first round and a convincing 4-1 victory against the Red Wings in the series opener.
But Howard and Detroit responded with three straight victories, pushing Chicago to the edge of elimination. The frustrated Blackhawks held a team meeting the day after Game 4, where the seeds were planted for their improbable comeback.
They felt one win would turn it around, and they were right.
Three victories later — in which the Blackhawks outscored the Red Wings 10-5 after managing just two goals in Games 2-4 — made them the 25th team to win a series after trailing 3-1.
It was the first time in franchise history they have made such a comeback.