DETROIT - Corey Crawford watched a fluttering puck get past his glove—a soft goal if there ever was one—and the Chicago Blackhawks looked as if they were in trouble against the Detroit Red Wings.
"I pretty much told myself it can't get any worse," Crawford said.
It did—for Detroit.
The Blackhawks picked up their crestfallen goalie by scoring three times in the first half of the third period to beat the Red Wings 4-3 on Monday night and force a Game 7 in the second-round playoff series between longtime rivals.
"We've got that momentum," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We want to keep it."
The Blackhawks got it when Bryan Bickell netted the go-ahead score early in the third, helping the NHL's top-seeded team earn a shot to advance to the Western Conference finals after Detroit once led 3-1 in the series. The Red Wings also began the third period of Game 6 with one-goal lead.
They just couldn't hold on.
Michal Handzus tied it in the opening minute of the final period. Bickell scored about 5 minutes later. Michael Frolik's backhander on a penalty shot at the 9:43 mark put the Blackhawks ahead 4-2 and silenced the once-raucous crowd.
Chicago needed that cushion because Damien Brunner scored with 52 seconds left to pull Detroit within one. The seventh-seeded Red Wings pulled their goaltender, but they were unable to score with the extra skater.
Now the series between Original Six teams shifts to Chicago for Game 7 on Wednesday night.
"If I would've told Detroit and Michigan we would play in Chicago in Game 7, I think everybody would be excited about that," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I love Game 7s.
"We've got a chance to push them out of the playoffs. It should be a lot of fun."
Detroit advanced to the second round after winning Game 6 at home and Game 7 on the road against second-seeded Anaheim.
"I think it's nice that we've been through it this year in the first series and I think that helped our team," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "It will be easier for us to come in there and play loose and just focus on what we're going to do."
Frolik became first player in league history to score two goals on penalty shots in the playoffs. He also did it two years ago against Vancouver.
"I was kind of surprised that I was the first one in history," he said. "It's a little bit special."
Crawford made 35 saves and Jimmy Howard stopped 24 shots for the Red Wings.
The Blackhawks sent the series back to Detroit with a 4-1 victory in Game 5 on Saturday night, and then jumped in front on Marian Hossa's goal in the first. But Patrick Eaves tied the game later in the period and Joakim Andersson put the Red Wings up 2-1 with a long wrister 10:11 into the second period.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville made the first tactical move by starting Toews and taking him off the ice soon after the puck dropped to get him away from Zetterberg.
When the Blackhawks went ahead 1-0 on a power play, both captains were on the ice.
Toews won the first faceoff against Zetterberg after the penalty was called, and ended up with an assist on Hossa's goalmouth scramble 3:53 into the game.
Eaves, who revived his career during the lockout-delayed season after having a concussion, scored for the first time this post-season off a rebound 18:51 into the first.
The Red Wings went ahead for the first time when Anderson had the puck, which was on edge above the left circle, and flicked a wrist shot that Crawford couldn't handle.
"It was a knuckle-puck," Andersson said. "It's hard for the goalie to see those sometimes."
Chicago got to the front of the net in the third period and it paid off.
Handzus was basically by himself when he scored 51 seconds into the third against a helpless Howard. Bickell wouldn't let Detroit defenceman Brendan Smith move him away from Howard before he scored the winning goal, leading to Howard taking Smith's stick and throwing it into the corner.
Frolik got a penalty try when he had a breakaway after blocking Carlo Colaiacovo's shot and was hacked by him from behind. He took advantage by scoring easily on Howard's glove side.
"I've got nothing to say about that," Howard said when asked about the call that gave Chicago a penalty shot.
Howard had a lot to say did during the game about it, screaming at an official while the Blackhawks celebrated their comeback that was made possible by supporting players.
"There's not a lot of room out there for top guys," Quenneville said. "We don't care who scores. We're all about being a team and contributing any way you can."
NOTES: Quenneville earned his 79th playoff win to break a tie with Babcock for the most by an active coach and move past Pat Burns and into 8th place on the league's all-time list. ... The Blackhawks are 5-0 when they score on a power play this post-season and Detroit is 2-6 when it allows a power-play goal. ... Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Brandon Inge attended the game after playing against his former team, the Tigers, at nearby Comerica Park and was wearing a Jordin Tootoo Red Wings jersey.