Three years after Patrick Kane clinched a title for Chicago with an overtime goal, the Blackhawks are headed back to the Stanley Cup Finals, with Kane once again playing the OT hero. Enjoying his best game of the playoffs, Kane beat Jonathan Quick three teams to eliminate the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in a 4-3 contest that needed two extra sessions.
Returning to the friendly confines of Chicago’s United Center for Game 5, the Blackhawks seemed destined to win the series, but the Kings had no intention of rolling over, making a miraculous comeback to force overtime before Kane finally ended their Cup defense.
The Kings rested their hopes for an improbable series comeback squarely on the shoulders of Jonathan Quick, who, much to the surprise of the hockey world, failed to deliver early in Game 5. Less than four minutes into the game, Quick botched a routine save to spot the home team an early lead.
In his return from a one game suspension, Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith carried the puck just inside the blue line and fired it towards Quick, hoping for little more than a rebound. With a perfect view of the puck from start to finish, Quick somehow allowed Keith’s shot to slip through his five-hole.
Two minutes later the Blackhawks doubled their lead. Chicago winger Bryan Bickell chased a puck into the zone that ricocheted off the end boards and directed it on net. Jonathan Toews followed the first chance with a rebound try that sent Kings defenders flopping in every direction. Meanwhile, Kane collected the puck and patiently awaited a wide-open third try opportunity, as Quick fell to his back. Kane made no mistake with his shot, elevating it high into the gaping mouth of the goal for his fourth of the playoffs.
Down by two early in the first and yet to test Corey Crawford, the Kings looked ready to wave a white flag. Unable to keep up with the speeding Blackhawks, a comeback looked highly unlikely, but the defending champs had a few cards left to play.
A second period interference call against Dustin Penner seemed like a prime opportunity for the Blackhawks to close out the game, but instead the Kings cut the lead to one while shorthanded. Justin Williams manhandled Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy as he drove to the net, and although he couldn’t beat Quick, Dwight King was right behind to bang home the rebound.
The Kings leveled the score on a powerplay chance of their own early in the third. Jeff Carter tried a long-distance wrister, and Anze Kopitar was ready in front to tap-in the rebound. All of a sudden, Chicago’s cakewalk to the Stanley Cup Finals had become a battle.
Despite the sudden challenge, luck was on the side of the Blackhawks, who regained the lead with a controversial goal four minutes from the end of regulation. Bickell quite clearly tripped Justin Williams behind the L.A. net, but as the Kings looked for a whistle Bickell found Kane wide open in front to score his second of the game.
As time ticked away, the Madhouse on Madison grew deafening. In the final minute the frenzied crowd roared as Quick was repeatedly unable to reach the bench, keeping the Kings from deploying an extra skater. Everything went to plan for the Blackhawks, until the whistle blew for icing with just 14 seconds remaining.
The icing call gave the Kings an offensive zone faceoff and a chance to pull their goalie. After taking a timeout to talk over their plan, they needed just five seconds to postpone the Blackhawks’ party.
Following a Jarret Stoll face-off win, Kopitar fired the puck from the boards and Mike Richards, back in action for the first time since leaving Game 1 with a concussion, deflected it into the net to shock the Kings back to life.
In the first overtime the Kings out shot a stunned Chicago club 11-6. Chicago still managed to produce a few glorious chances, but had a nasty habit of sending the puck just wide of the net. As it had been all night, the trio of Kane, Toews and Bickell was constantly threatening.
That line would net the winner 11:40 into the second overtime. Flying down the ice 2-on-1, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews neutralized lone defender Rob Scuderi with a perfect pass and Kane did the rest, launching a brilliant shot by Quick to cap off the game, the series and his hat trick.
One night after the Boston Bruins refused to lay a finger on Prince of Wales Trophy, Toews followed suit neglecting to touch the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. In accordance with superstition, Toews opted not to touch the trophy back in 2010, knowing that a much greater praise lay in wait. He hopes to hoist that prize once again sometime in the next two weeks.
The Blackhawks will welcome the Boston Bruins to Chicago on Wednesday night to play for the Stanley Cup. They hope to become the first team to win the Presidents Trophy and the Cup in the same season since the Red Wings accomplished the feat in 2008. The 2011 Vancouver Canucks were the last Presidents Trophy winning club to reach the finals, losing to the Bruins in seven games.
Returning 17 players from that 2011 Cup team, the Bruins are coming off a remarkable upset sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tuukka Rask and the Bruins allowed just two goals in four games against the vaunted Penguins offense, and they should provide the Blackhawks with their toughest test of the postseason.