Going the Limit
One moment the Detroit Red Wings were seemingly 20 minutes away from a surprising appearance in the Western Conference final, with Chicago goaiie Corey Crawford set to play the goat for the vanquished Chicago Blackhawks.
The next moment, or so it seemed, it was all gone, with the Wings having collapsed in the third period, leaving them on the verge of a much larger, and much uglier,post-season collapse.
It happened that fast.
Detroit led the Hawks 2-1 going into the third period of Game 6 on Monday night, with Joakim Andersson having provided the edge with a knuckler of a shot that somehow floated past the glove hand of Crawford from 30 feet.
Then came two quick goals from Michal Handzus and Bryan Bickell, and then Carlo Colaiacovo's slash across the hands of Chicago forward Michal Frolik produced a penalty shot, with Frolik making it 4-2 with a gorgeous backhand flick.
It all happened within a nine-minute span at The Joe in Detroit, leading to a 4-3 Chicago win and setting up Game 7 in Chicago on Wednesday night.
The Wings once led the series three games to one, producing countless flattering profiles of the Detroit organization, all detailing how the Wings have managed to continue winning over the years because of their emphasis on skill and puck possession.
Chicago went into the series favoured after being the best team during the 48-game, lockout shortened regular season, although some suggested they did not play particularly well in ousting Minnesota in five games to open the post-season.
But after losing three of the first four to Detroit, the Hawks stormed back with wins in Games 5 and 6, putting eight goals behind Wings goalie Jimmy Howard in those two victories.
After four games, the Wings were in control and getting kudos for once again demonstrating it's never wise to count out the Detroit hockey operation, which has been stripped of stars and key front office personnel in recent seasons.
Now, it's the Hawks who have delivered a message that, three years after winning the Stanley Cup, those who had the Red Wings already advancing to the Western final were prematurely writing Chicago's obituary.
"Things can change pretty quickly in the playoffs," Crawford told the CBC. "And they changed for us."
One of these proud organizations will be going down on Wednesday, that we know for sure.