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CHICAGO -- Corey Crawford sat deep in his stall inside the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room minutes before midnight local time. His pads were still strapped onto his legs, his back, slightly slouched, nevertheless pressed against the wall.
This was the picture of exhaustion, of relief and of elation. This was a picture of a goalie who mere moments ago finished playing nearly 92 minutes of non-stop, high-energy, intense Stanley Cup Playoff hockey only to finally, at the end of a long-awaited celebration, come to the realization that he's going someplace special.
The Stanley Cup Final.
Patrick Kane had the first hat trick in a conference championship-clinching game since Wayne Gretzky did it 20 years ago, and Crawford made 33 saves, including 13 in the overtimes, as the Blackhawks fended off the resilient Los Angeles Kings to punch their ticket to the championship round with a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final at United Center.
"That was a game you'll always remember," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "That was an amazing hockey game."
The last obstacle standing in the way of Chicago's second Stanley Cup championship in four seasons are the red-hot Boston Bruins, who have to make travel arrangements to get to the Windy City in time for the start of the Final on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
It'll be the first time the Bruins and Blackhawks, two of the NHL's oldest franchises, have met with the Stanley Cup on the line, and the first time two Original Six teams have played in a Final since 1979.
"The tradition of the Bruins and the Hawks is special," Quenneville said. "The rivalry could return instantly come Game 1. It's good for hockey."
Kane went seven straight games without a goal before scoring in Game 4 on Thursday at Staples Center. He lit the lamp three times Saturday: 5:59 into the first period to give Chicago a 2-0 lead; 16:08 into the third period to give the Blackhawks a short-lived 3-2 lead; and again in double overtime.
Quenneville said before Game 4 he wanted to see more from Kane in all areas of the game.
"That was more than more," Quenneville said Saturday night.
He was then asked if there was anything different about Kane in the past two games.
"Yeah, he stepped up," Quenneville said. "He took on the responsibility of leading the team. Proven he's a top player in the game, he made special plays over the two games. [It's] nice to see him finish it off in a real positive way for us."
Kane talked a few days ago about expecting more from himself, about needing more willpower.
"Right now I think it's almost like I'm in a different zone, like in the Twilight Zone or something," he said. "I'm kind of out of it. It's definitely a good feeling though."
Kane and the Blackhawks thought they had the Kings finished in regulation. They were wrong. Mike Richards scored a deflection goal with 9.4 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Bryan Bickell had iced the puck five seconds earlier, setting up a faceoff to the right of Crawford that Kings center Jarret Stoll won. Jeff Carter got the puck to Slava Voynov, who moved it to Anze Kopitar for a shot that Richards got a piece of after establishing position in front of the crease.
"I honestly don't think there's a worse feeling in hockey, when your nine seconds away," Toews said. "You know you have to get the puck out. Two little bounces go against you, next thing you know it's in your net. Your heart sinks pretty quick. We just tried to tell each other in the locker room that we can't be thinking about what could have been, we have to just turn the page, get over it. It's the only way you're going to move on and win the game."
The goal let the air out of a capacity crowd of 22,237 that was ready to celebrate -- and out of the home team as well.
Neither team could find the finishing touch in what was an up-and-down first overtime that included several chances on both sides, but Kane and Toews appeared to have more energy than anyone else on the ice in the second overtime and their jump had a lot to do with the winning goal.
They had a scoring chance 21 seconds before the 2-on-1, but Kane was slashed twice by Kings forward Justin Williams as he tried to shoot from the left side, roughly 10 feet away from Quick. Los Angeles got the puck back down deep into Chicago's defensive zone, but Bickell chipped it out, past a pinching Slava Voynov, to create the 2-on-1 against Rob Scuderi.
The Blackhawks came with speed and Kane made it a no-doubter and a tough one for the 2012 champions to swallow.
"You play hockey in June to win," Williams said. "You get this far, to not have a chance to defend it, it's frustrating. I can't stand looking at somebody else raise that Cup, and now we're going to have to do it."
Chicago came out strong and got goals from Duncan Keith and Kane within the first six minutes of the game, but Los Angeles came back with a shorthanded goal from Dwight King 9:28 into the second period and a power-play goal from Kopitar early in the third.
Kopitar's goal was his first of the series and snapped a six-game drought.
King's shorthanded goal made him Los Angeles' all-time leading scorer in the conference final with six, including four last year against the Phoenix Coyotes. He passed Gretzky, who had five goals in the 1993 Campbell Conference final against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Quenneville refused to say giving up a 2-0 lead was a letdown because he knew the Kings were going to keep coming.
"Our team is highly successful because of that [resolve]," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "There's not much you can do about giving up bad goals. If you want to put your head between your legs you're going to get your [butt] kicked. We don't do that. We respond the right way all the time."
The Blackhawks usually do too. They definitely did after Richards scored.
"Our attitude was pretty much, 'So what, we gotta keep playing and we'll win this one,'" Crawford said.
The Bruins are next.
"We know there's going to be some more tough moments that we'll have to battle through," Toews said. "We're confident we can do that as a team."
|Duncan Keith (2) Slapshot - ASST: Michal Rozsival (1)|
1 - 0 CHI
|Patrick Kane (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Jonathan Toews (7), Bryan Bickell (4)|
2 - 0 CHI
|SHG - Dwight King (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Justin Williams (3), Jonathan Quick (1)|
2 - 1 CHI
|PPG - Anze Kopitar (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Jeff Carter (7), Mike Richards (9)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Patrick Kane (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Bryan Bickell (5)|
3 - 2 CHI
|Mike Richards (3) Deflected shot - ASST: Anze Kopitar (6), Slava Voynov (7)|
3 - 3 Tie
|1st OT Period|
|2nd OT Period|
|Patrick Kane (6) Wrist shot - ASST: Jonathan Toews (8)|
4 - 3 CHI
|Dustin Penner Interference against Dave Bolland|
|Jonathan Toews Interference against Dustin Brown|
|Bryan Bickell Boarding against Jake Muzzin|
|Matt Greene Cross checking against Andrew Shaw|
|1st OT Period|
|2nd OT Period|