Chicago, IL – Brandon Saad's goal in the fifth round of the shootout capped a late Chicago comeback that gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings as well as the Central Division title.
The win, coupled with St. Louis' loss at Columbus earlier in the evening, assured Chicago of a top-three seed in the upcoming Western Conference playoffs as the Central champ and also clinched a postseason berth for idle Anaheim, the current Pacific Division leader.
"I think we were looking at this game as a potential playoff matchup," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "That's the way this game felt tonight because they fought us tooth-and-nail the whole way."
Chicago trailed 2-1 before Jonathan Toews scored with 2:57 remaining in the third period, and Marian Hossa beat Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard in the third round of the shootout to keep the Blackhawks alive.
Viktor Stalberg also scored in Chicago's fourth straight victory, with Corey Crawford coming up with 27 saves in regulation and overtime prior to thwarting 4-of-5 Detroit skaters in the deciding phase.
Johan Franzen and Cory Emmerton each potted goals to help the Red Wings, who entered the contest holding the eighth and final playoff seed in the West, pick up an important point. Howard finished with 26 saves.
"The bottom line is over the last couple years every game's been a one-goal game except for the blowout they had in our building," said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. "They're finding a way to score more goals on more nights against us. They're a deeper team than we are, without any question about it."
Down by one with time running out, the Blackhawks frantically pressured the Detroit zone and were rewarded on Toews' goal with just under three minutes to go. A shot by Michael Frolik was turned away by Howard, but the Chicago captain was able to slide the rebound under the goaltender's pads to forge a 2-2 tie.
After the clubs combined for only one shot on goal in overtime, Henrik Zetterberg gave Detroit an early upper hand in the shootout by burying a backhander into the upper left corner in the second round.
Hossa was able to keep it ongoing, however, with a shot that went off the post and in on the next try, and Detroit's Damien Brunner subsequently missed high.
Following a scoreless fourth round, Saad opened the fifth by beating Howard top-shelf with a backhander before Crawford successfully blocked a try from Franzen.
Playing for the final time as division opponents in the regular season with Detroit shifting to the Eastern Conference next season, the two Original Six teams and longtime rivals battled to a scoreless first period before each picked up the offensive pace in the second.
Stalberg snapped the 0-0 tie by jamming home a centering feed from Duncan Keith from in close 6:11 into the frame, but the Red Wings answered with a pair of goals just under two minutes apart to move ahead.
With Detroit on a power play, Crawford blocked Zetterberg's one-timer but failed to cover the puck, with Franzen collecting the loose disc and putting in a wraparound try into an open left side 4:20 prior to the second intermission to knot the score.
Emmerton put Detroit in front with a second-effort goal in which the center fought off a check from Chicago's Michal Roszival, skated into the crease and poked his own rebound past Crawford with 2:21 left in the second.
The win gave Chicago a four-game sweep of the season series and was the Blackhawks' seventh straight overall against Detroit ... Franzen's goal was the first power-play tally surrendered by the Blackhawks in 12 games, with the club having gone 18-for-18 on the penalty kill over the first 11 ... Chicago now has a league-best 18 wins in one-goal games this season and are 18-3-4 in such situations ... Prior to the game, the Blackhawks announced the signing of 2013 Hobey Baker Award winner Drew LeBlanc to a one-year entry-level contract. LeBlanc, a forward from St. Cloud State, was named the NCAA's most outstanding player for the 2012-13 season earlier on Friday.