After a disappointing and erratic regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks had a final chance to make their own way into the playoffs. Instead, they needed some help to get back to the postseason for a third straight year.
On their home ice, the defending Stanley Cup champs needed 1 point yesterday against their most fierce rival, Detroit, and they were in. Didn’t get it.
The visiting Red Wings carved out a 4-3 victory and put Chicago into a wait-and-watch mode. But the Blackhawks got the assistance they had to have last night when Minnesota beat Dallas, 5-3, giving Chicago the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
As the eighth seed, Chicago will face top-seeded Vancouver in the first round. The Blackhawks have beaten the Canucks in the conference semifinals in each of the last two postseasons. Chicago was 2-2 this season against Vancouver.
Jimmy Howard made 33 saves, the Red Wings killed a late power play and finally solved rookie goalie Corey Crawford, who was 4-0 against the Red Wings.
“It’s so frustrating it has come down to this. I’m pretty much speechless,’’ Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said after the loss.
Toews and his teammates will be able to redeem themselves if they now make another deep playoff run after getting a second life.
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, where they will open against Phoenix.
The Blackhawks had beaten the Red Wings, 4-2, Friday in Detroit.
Chicago went on a power play with 2:58 left when Jonathan
Wild 5, Stars 3 — Antti Miettinen’s goal early in the third period against his former team gave Minnesota the lead and kept Dallas out of the playoffs, with a season-ending win in St. Paul.
Minnesota scored first on a rare goal by enforcer Brad Staubitz and last on an empty-netter by Pierre-Marc Bouchard after the Stars pulled goalie Kari Lehtonen with 1:21 left.
Penguins 5, Thrashers 2 — Tyler Kennedy scored the first of visiting Pittsburgh’s four second-period goals, reserve goalie Brent Johnson won his fourth straight decision, and the Penguins closed the regular season with a victory over already-eliminated Atlanta.
Avalanche 4, Oilers 3 — David Jones knocked in a rebound during a power play 3:57 into overtime and Colorado finished the regular season on a winning note by beating Edmonton in Denver.