Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks – CHI wins 5-4 (OT), LAK leads series 3-2
The Los Angeles trio of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson has done most of the damage for the Kings so far this series. The team has scored 16 goals through the first four games of this series and that line has half of them. Shooting percentages are a fickle thing, though, and I wouldn’t expect that line to score at a 23.5-percent shooting rate (eight goals on 34 shots) for too much longer. In that sense, it was time for the top line, including Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar, to really put their mark on this series. They had 14 goals through the first 14 games of the playoffs yet had just one through the first four games of this series. Kopitar had been shooting a less this series – a lot of that thanks to being matched so frequently against Jonathan Toews – so he had to figure out a way to get more offense.
Chicago didn’t win two Stanley Cups in four years by not being able to rebound in a series. This is a team with as much skill as any and their ability to pour in the goals can come at any moment. One guy in particular was Patrick Kane. The guy who had so many overtime heroics in the past, including a Cup-clinching goal, had one assist and no goals in four games heading to Game 5. He also had just nine shots on goal in those four games (2.25/game); he had 35 shots on goal in the first 12 games of the playoffs (2.92/game). He doesn’t need to just throw pucks at the net, but like Kopitar, he’s a player that should be able to figure out a way to generate offense.
Kane, while not getting in the goal column, didn’t take long to make a big imprint in Game 5. Kane had the second assist on Chicago’s first goal just over a minute in. Less than two and a half minutes later, a Kane shot was put away on the rebound by Johnny Oduya for Chicago’s second goal and Kane’s second assist. After Los Angeles cut the lead to 2-1, Kane forced a turnover by Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, which led to a goal by Brandon Saad. They would eventually score an assist for Kane on that play, giving him three for the first period. Kopitar and Gaborik would combine for Los Angeles’ second goal to close a wild first period with a 3-2 score.
Kane had the second assist on Chicago’s overtime winner, capping off what was an excellent night for him. Kane led all Chicago forwards being on the ice for 28 shot attempts, leading the team with a 63.6-percent CorsiFor. He’s never been known for his particular puck possession skills in terms of Corsi, though. He’s known for his magic hands and great vision. There were extended periods tonight where he was playing keep-away with the puck and really came through for this team with their backs against the wall.
Toffoli and Pearson had another solid night for Los Angeles, leading their forwards in CorsiFor. Gaborik and Dustin Brown had goals for the top line, a sign they were finally starting to come awake. It still makes 20 goals for the Kings in five games and if Chicago wants to push this to seven, they will need to tighten up a bit defensively.
One thing Chicago really started doing was crashing the net. The fourth Chicago goal was a rebound kicked out by Jonathan Quick and they seemed to be putting more pucks on net and crashing the crease to get the dirty goals. If the ‘Hawks can maintain that mentality at least for another game, hockey fans could be in store for a Game 7.