Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was noticeably absent in these playoffs, but when the team needed him he came around. On Saturday night, Kane scored a hat trick to lead the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals. They eliminated the reigning champion Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in double overtime in a thrilling Game 5 in the Western Conference Finals.
While the Eastern Conference Finals ended in a non-dramatic fashion, the West did not let down their fans. The Blackhawks were up in the series 3-1 and back in Chicago. They had defenseman Duncan Keith back after a one-game suspension and Kane started showing signs of like in Game 4 when he finally scored his first goal in eight games. As soon as the puck dropped in the first period the Blackhawks came out fighting. They did not allow the Kings to register their first shot on goal until 10:40. By then, the Blackhawks were already leading 2-0. Keith scored at 3:42, which proved how valuable he is to the team and Kane scored his first goal at 5:59. It was bit of a lucky goal as the puck somehow found its way past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick’s pads when it was shot nearly from center ice.
The Blackhawks went into the locker room for first intermission up 2-0 and full of confidence that they had this in the bag. But the Kings had different plans and they started to show they were not going to lightly give up the Stanley Cup. In the second period, the Kings started hitting more and using their good defense. The Blackhawks should have woken up when Dwight King scored a short-handed goal at 9:28. The lead was cut to 2-1. While that was the only goal of the period spectators could tell the tide was turning.
Everything changed in the third period. Who knows what head coach Darryl Sutter told his team in the locker room, but the Kings were a different team. Blackhawks Bryan Bickell was sent to the penalty box on a boarding call and the Kings saw an opportunity to draw blood. Anze Kopitar scored the power play goal at 3:34 to tie the game. Los Angeles was back and it was now known they would not go down without a fight. They played like they wanted to win while the Blackhawks played like they just wanted to get to overtime. But Kane had other ideas. At 16:08 he scored his second goal of the game to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead. The United Center erupted, along with the team bench. Finally, it looked like they could win in regulation.
It fell apart for Chicago at literally the last second. Remember, these playoffs have proven over and over the game is not over until the clock hits 0:00 and no team should be comfortable with any lead. In the last minute the Blackhawks had the puck in the Los Angeles zone and goalie Jonathan Quick was desperately trying to find a way to leave the ice to give the team an extra attacker. The puck finally went into the Blackhawks zone, Los Angeles started to apply the pressure and with seconds dwindling down Bryan Bickell iced the puck and the play stopped.
Quick was able to leave the ice, Los Angeles received their extra attacker, and they were allowed to regroup. To top it off the faceoff was in the Blackhawks zone. Jarret Stoll won the faceoff and gave Los Angeles possession with less than 15 seconds left in the game. Then, with 9.4 seconds left, Mike Richards, his first game in three games, scored the goal on a deflection of a Kopitar shot.
The United Center fell silent. The Blackhawks bench deflated while the Los Angeles bench went insane. The game tied 3-3. Overtime.
The first overtime had a few chances by each team, but both goalies came up huge to send it to second overtime and it all came together. Captain Jonathan Toews forced a 2-on-1 with Kane. Toews could have taken the shot, but Kane had a better shot. Toews passed it to him and with one shot Kane lit the lamp. Not only was it his third goal of the game it was the game winning goal. The Chicago Blackhawks are going to the Stanley Cup Finals. Words cannot describe the emotion and chaos in the arena. Coach Joel Quennville described it perfectly:
“That was a game you’ll always remember,” Quenneville said. “That was an amazing hockey game.”
Two Original Six teams will fight for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The first game between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks is in Chicago on Wednesday night at 8PM ET on NBC.