They went as far as they could, and even a little farther. But when it gets this tight and this late, it can end in a frantic flash.

With the flick of a stick and the bounce of a puck, the Red Wings' season ended Wednesday night. This series was destined to be decided by one last twist, and it came off the stick of Chicago's Brent Seabrook. His shot tipped off Niklas Kronwall and flipped past Jimmy Howard's glove early in overtime, and that's how these crazy Game 7s often end.

The Wings had their chance and lost it, dropping a 2-1 heartbreaker, and as grueling as this series was, it was over that quickly. The Blackhawks completed a stirring comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, and halted the Wings' stirring comeback season. It was a terrific effort from both teams, and it doesn't get any tenser or more thrilling than this.

On the ice afterward, Kronwall dropped to one knee, his head down, while Howard put his arm around him. There aren't any good ways to lose a Game 7 but this was a brutal one, and Kronwall could barely describe it.

"I thought everyone laid everything on the line, and to go out like that, it's tough," Kronwall said. "Right now, it's just an empty feeling. I think the puck went off my shin, to be honest with you, not sure. But I knew right away it went off me, and I turned around and saw it in the net."
No regrets

Howard was stellar again, and his words reflected the prevailing mood in the Wings' dressing room. It was profound disappointment, tinged with pride. Yes, the Wings blew a 3-1 series lead. No, they didn't expect it to end like this.

They came out flying in the third period, tying the score on Henrik Zetterberg's goal, and perhaps they deserved a better fate, as they nearly ousted the top seed. It was a shame to lose it, but frankly, there's no shame in losing it. The Blackhawks and their goalie, Corey Crawford, grabbed it from the Wings' clutches, even if it took a fluky shot just 3:35 into overtime.

"It's tough, but how can you get upset at someone sacrificing their body out there, blocking shots like (Kronwall) was," Howard said. "He doesn't deserve that one. I thought we did a lot of great things. I'm really proud of the way this team carried itself this year, especially when a lot of people counted us out, didn't even expect this series to get past four games. It just stinks that it's all over with."

Johan Franzen had a prime scoring chance shortly after Zetterberg tied it, and the entire third period was a furious rush. It takes all sorts of breaks, and the Wings certainly got a huge one with 1:47 left in regulation. Niklas Hjalmarsson fired the puck past Howard and the crowd erupted as the Blackhawks grabbed a 2-1 lead — for about a second.

The refs waved off the goal because trailing official Stephen Walkom blew the whistle apparently before the shot. He stopped play to separate Kyle Quincey and Brandon Saad in a scuffle, and both drew penalties. The goal was wiped out and overtime beckoned, and the gasping Wings inhaled incredibly good fortune — fortune that didn't last.

"It's one of those things where you feel you got new life," Howard said. "But it wasn't meant to be."

It had been this way all season. Just when it appears the Wings might wilt, they tilt it the other way. Trailing 1-0 entering the third period, they struck quickly and almost repeatedly, and naturally, the captain was involved.

Gustav Nyquist slid a perfect pass to Zetterberg, who slammed the puck past Crawford, and in a stunning turn it was 1-1 a mere 26 seconds into the third. From there, the Wings went up and down the ice, peppering Crawford, smelling the upset.

Hey, if you expected the Wings to wither, you hadn't watched these playoffs, including that Game 7 victory in Anaheim. When the Blackhawks won twice to tie this series, it appeared the heavy favorites might assert themselves. They did for a while, but not for long.

"I thought our guys hung in there and battled hard, just like they have all year long," Mike Babcock said. "From the start to the end, I think we're a team that just got better and better and better. Obviously they're a real talented group and I thought we played them real hard and had a lot of fun doing it. But in those dreams you have as a kid, in Game 7, you always score — the other team doesn't score."