Brent Seabrook’s head hurt . The pounding he took from his teammates, who thumped his helmet like a bongo while 22,103 delirious fans danced along to the beat, combined with the giddy delirium and head -spinning drama of an unforgettable Game 7, barely left him able to formulate his thoughts.
‘‘I, uh — I’m sorry, I think I got punched in the head too many times,’’ he said with a weary smile.
Hard to blame him. Who could sum up that game in one pithy sound bite, anyway?
Seabrook’s shot from the high slot ticked off defenseman Niklas Kronwall’s skate and into the net 3:35 into overtime Wednesday, giving the Blackhawks an indescribable 2-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings. It capped a stirring comeback from a 3-1 series deficit and sent the Hawks into the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
And it rendered what could have gone down as one of the most controversial moments in Chicago sports history a mere footnote. With 1:47 left in the third period — a period in which the Hawks found themselves on their heels after Henrik Zetterberg tied the score 1-1 just 26 seconds in — Niklas Hjalmarsson stepped into a shot from the top of the left circle and drilled it past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
The crowd roared with glee but soon roared with anger upon realizing the goal had been disallowed — the third Hawks goal to be waved off in the series. Referee Stephen Walkom had blown his whistle a fraction of a second before Hjalmarsson’s shot went in, as Brandon Saad was called for a roughing minor for a retaliatory facewash after being dumped into the boards and dropped on the ice by the Red Wings’ Kyle Quincey.
As the stunned Hawks gathered themselves during the overtime intermission, angry captain Jonathan Toews addressed his team.
‘‘I said, ‘We’ll beat them 3-1,’ ’’ Toews said. ‘‘We were obviously pretty [ticked] off that the whistle blew right before that one went in. But we weren’t going to go away that way.’’
And they didn’t. Dave Bolland drilled the Red Wings’ Gustav Nyquist along the boards to spring Seabrook, who capped his own personal comeback from a poor start to the series with what he said was the biggest goal of his career.
The Hawks leaped into one another’s arms after that, the mentally taxing, emotionally draining, physically exhausting series finally behind them. After seven tense games, Hawks-Red Wings — the game, the series and the rivalry, for all intents and purposes — was finally over.
OK, now, halfway there.
The funny thing about apocalyptic, earth-stopping showdowns is that it’s only the apocalypse for the loser. The earth keeps spinning for the winner. And by booting the Red Wings off to the Eastern Conference, the Hawks reached only the midway point in their quest to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Up next are the Kings, a fast, physical and skilled team with a red-hot goalie in Jonathan Quick and the experience of winning it all last season. The Hawks go right back to work Saturday for a Game 1 matinee at the United Center. Game 2 comes the very next day. No rest for the weary. And none wanted.
‘‘It’s too early to go home,’’ Toews said. ‘‘We don’t want to go home yet. We want to keep playing hockey for another month. We enjoy going on the road and playing Mario Kart and being together. There’s nowhere else to be right now.”