After a disappointing and erratic regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks had a final chance to make their own way back into the playoffs.
On their home ice, the defending Stanley Cup champs needed a point Sunday against their most fierce rival, the Detroit Red Wings, and they were in.
Instead, the Red Wings carved out a 4-3 victory. Which meant that in order to make the postseason, Chicago needed the Minnesota Wild to beat the Dallas Stars on Sunday night or for that game to end in a shootout, which would give the Blackhawks the tie breaker over the Stars.
All the worry was for nothing, as the Wild beat the Stars, 5-3.
Chicago will face the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. That game is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Sunday's Game Against Detroit:
Drew Miller, Danny Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk scored for the Red Wings, who had already locked down the No. 3 playoff seed in the West and were trying to build momentum for the playoffs.
Chicago went on a power play with 2:58 left when Jonathan Ericsson was called for holding with Detroit nursing its one-goal lead, but the Red Wings and Howard killed it off. The Blackhawks' Duncan Keith couldn't get off a shot from in front of the goal as the final seconds clicked off.
An often rocky season featuring inconsistent play after a salary-cap purge in the offseason and injuries brought the Blackhawks to the final day in search of the final playoff spot.
The Red Wings took the lead with a pair of goals 62 seconds apart in the second and held on.
Miller's tip-in less than two minutes into the third period put the Red Wings up 3-1 and momentarily stunned the crowd at the United Center. But Chicago answered minutes later when Seabrook's slap shot from above the right circle found its way past a screened Howard, cutting the lead to one.
But about four minutes later, Cleary took a nifty pass from Todd Bertuzzi and flipped it past Corey Crawford to give the Red Wings a 4-2 lead. Keith's goal, when he reached in for a loose puck and shoved it past Howard, cut it to a one-goal deficit with just more than eight minutes remaining in the game.
The goals in the second period from Holmstrom and Datsyuk gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead and wiped out the Blackhawks' momentum from a goal minutes earlier by Frolik.
Patrick Kane stole the puck from Brad Stuart near the boards, hesitated with the puck and then fed Frolik, whose shot from between the circles at 5:18 of the second gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
But less than two minutes later, Holmstrom gathered in a puck that had come all the way around the boards and raced down the left side, powering in a shot to beat Crawford and tying the game at 1-1 with his unassisted goal.
It didn't take the Red Wings long to score again.
After a long shot by Bertuzzi was apparently blocked by Chicago's Nick Leddy, Cleary got the loose puck to Datsyuk in the slot and he rifled it past Crawford for a 2-1 lead.
Howard made a nice save on Patrick Sharp as he plowed through the crease and then flagged down a shot by Kane with his glove to preserve Detroit's one-goal lead.
Crawford made a point-blank save against Johan Franzen about halfway through the first period when the Blackhawks kept the puck in their offensive end most of the period and had two power plays, but came up empty. Chicago's Jake Dowell had three cracks at the puck from beside the goal after a cross ice pass from Bryan Bickell, but Howard turned him away to keep the game scoreless.