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Blackhawks a point shy of winning Western Conference
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate the 3-2 overtime win over the Blackhawks during the final home game of the 2009-10 regular season, as Dustin Byfuglien skates back to the bench.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Patrick Kane gets tripped by the Red Wings' Valterri Filppula during the first period.

 

Associated Press

Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi starts to get up after letting Brad Stuart of the Detroit Red Wings score the winning goal in overtime during the final home game of the 2009-2010 regular season.

 

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/11/2010 5:07 PM | Updated: 4/11/2010 10:37 PM

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Tim Sassone's game tracker

Three stars

1. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings: The rookie goalie stopped 27 shots in the victory.

2. Colin Fraser, Hawks: Fourth-liner scored his fifth goal in the last four games.

3. Dan Cleary, Red Wings: Two assists and a team-leading 5 hits.

Big number

The Hawks finished the season scoring 62 more goals (271) than they allowed (209). First-round playoff opponent Nashville scored 225 and allowed 225.

The long and uphill chase to catch and pass the San Jose Sharks to win the Western Conference fell just short for the Blackhawks on Sunday.

When the Hawks lost to Detroit 3-2 in overtime at the United Center it not only left them with the second seed in the West, but it changed their first-round playoff opponent from Colorado to Nashville.

The best-of-seven series against the Predators will begin Friday at the UC.

"It's disappointing we couldn't pull it out there at the end, but we're still going into the playoffs and we still have home ice," Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said. "We want to look forward, so there's no use hanging our heads over that one. It's a good regular season and now it's time to move forward."

It was a great regular season for the Hawks, who finished with a club-record 52 wins and 112 points. The Sharks won the West with 113 points and will open the playoffs against the eighth-seeded Avalanche.

Detroit, on the strength of its 13-1-2 finishing kick, grabbed the fifth seed and gets Phoenix in the first round.

"It was a very good hockey game," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Both teams played like they wanted to move up."

The Hawks closed with a 6-0-1 run and still feel they are full of momentum heading into the playoffs.

"We're turning the page, obviously," Quenneville said. "We've waited a long time to get these playoffs going. We had a good season and let's get excited about the second season.

"We've had some good stretches and we've had some things we can learn from, but at the same time we've prepared to start and we're excited about it and we're looking forward to it."

The Hawks haven't played Nashville since all the way back on Dec. 27 and took the season series 4-2, twice winning in a shootout.

"They're tough and they match up against us well," Sharp said.

"We feel we're ready for the playoffs," Hawks center Colin Fraser said. "This is when the fun begins."

It was Fraser who sent Sunday's game into overtime with 9:16 to play with his fifth goal in the last four games.

The Hawks had a chance to win in regulation when Detroit's Johan Franzen took a tripping penalty with 2:32 to play, but the Chicago power play couldn't deliver. The power play went 1-for-4 but is a concern going into the playoffs having gone just 6-for-61 over the final 18 games.

In overtime, the Hawks got caught in a 2-on-1 down low after Henrik Zetterberg won a battle along the boards. Zetterberg found Dan Cleary, who passed to a wide-open Brad Stuart in the slot for the shot past a defenseless Antti Niemi.

The Hawks were just minutes away from having the West title decided in a shootout.

"Certainly it was right there," Quenneville said. "We've been pretty effective in overtime and shootouts this year."

The Hawks outshot Detroit 16-3 in the second period, but goalie Jimmy Howard was excellent and the Red Wings got the only goal from Patrick Eaves.

It was 1-1 going to the third period with the Red Wings going ahead at 7:10 on Tomas Holmstrom's tip-in.

"Both teams were great today," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Give both goalies credit; they were solid.

"Who knows, maybe we'll get to play (the Hawks) again."