LOS ANGELES -- With another huge night from Patrick Kane, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks have forced a winner-take-all showdown with the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final.
Kane had two goals and an assist, setting up the tying goal and scoring the winner in the third period for the Blackhawks, who rallied for a 4-3 victory Friday at Staples Center.
Once down 3-1 in this series, Chicago will go home to United Center for Game 7 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"You try to take it upon yourself to try and step up in big situations," Kane said. "But we have a lot of guys that do that. I think with our team and the amount of great players that are on it, it seems like everyone has their time to step up and have the spotlight and be in that moment. There's been numerous guys that have done it. When it's your turn, it's always fun to contribute."
This will be the third straight series with a Game 7 for the Kings. They won the first two on the road, at SAP Center against the San Jose Sharks and at Honda Center against the Anaheim Ducks, in decisive fashion.
Los Angeles was the team attempting to complete a comeback in those series, not the one trying to close it out. The Kings will be trying to do something no team has done in the history of the NHL. Twice a team has played all 21 possible games in the first three rounds, but each of the first two, the Colorado Avalanche in 2002 and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993, lost Game 7 of the conference finals.
"I'm frustrated, but I'm over it pretty quickly," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "I know we got another game to play, Game 7. We had two chances to close out this series and we're not going to blow a third one."
Kane put Chicago in front to stay with 3:45 left in regulation. He circled with the puck in the offensive end before snapping a shot through traffic from near the high slot for his eighth goal of the playoffs. He has seven points in the past two games and now leads the Blackhawks with 18 in this postseason.
The Blackhawks' ability to take over series as they progress has been incredible since Kane and captain Jonathan Toews became the twin faces of the franchise, but especially so in the past two years. Chicago is now 13-0 after Game 4 in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs.
"Top players, I mean, they want to win," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "They find ways. They challenge one another. You see certain guys competing like that every shift. I mean, you can't help but follow along and make your contribution."
Defenseman Duncan Keith tied the game 3-3 with 8:26 remaining. Los Angeles had scored twice to take the lead and Staples Center was rocking, but Kane backhanded a pass to Keith, who cut in from the top of the zone to score his fourth goal of this postseason.
The Blackhawks scored on two of their three shots on goal in the third period.
The Kings were down 2-1 to start the third period, but Doughty carried them back into the lead. The defenseman scored on a wrist shot from near the top of the left circle at 5:32 after Dustin Brown made a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. He then made a beautiful pass to defenseman Alec Martinez, who scored a power-play goal at 7:38 to give the Kings a 3-2 lead. Doughty protected the puck and moved to his right before sending a behind-the-back pass to Martinez for a shot from the left circle that beat goalie Corey Crawford through his five-hole.
The Blackhawks took the lead with two goals in 97 seconds early in the second period. For the second straight game, Toews drew a penalty on one of Los Angeles' top players early in a period and the Blackhawks capitalized with the extra man.
With center Anze Kopitar in the box, Kane had the puck on the right wall, sent a pass to Toews along the goal line and cut toward the net. Kane completed the give-and-go with a shot past goaltender Jonathan Quick at 1:12.
Ben Smith pushed Chicago in front 2-1 at 2:49. Smith was alone going to the net after a pass from Patrick Sharp and appeared to lose control of the puck as Quick went for a poke check. But he was able to regain possession as he passed the net and banked the puck off Quick's skate and over the goal line.
"There's not much of a difference or a gap in these two clubs," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It comes down to those great plays at the end. We could have went away after the Smith goal, after the bad goal. We battled back. Both teams did."
Dwight King put Los Angeles in front 1-0 late in the first period. Jarret Stoll corralled the puck behind the Chicago net and sent a pass to King in the slot for his second goal of this postseason at 17:03.
King has nine career playoff goals, seven in the Western Conference Final. He had four two seasons ago against the Phoenix Coyotes and two last year against the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks won Game 1 and led Game 2 by two goals late in the second period, but the Kings rallied with six unanswered to even the series. Los Angeles swept Games 3 and 4 at Staples Center. After taking a 4-0 lead in Game 4, the Kings had a 14-3 run in goals since Chicago had that 2-0 lead in Game 2.
Chicago avoided elimination in Game 5 with a 5-4 two-overtime victory that included four assists from Kane and a winning goal from Michal Handzus after a fantastic overtime.
The Blackhawks will try to complete a comeback from down 3-1 in a series for the second straight year and move within four victories of a repeat championship. The Kings will try to win a Game 7 on the road for the third time in this postseason and complete the most improbable run to a Stanley Cup Final in League history.
That's what is on the line Sunday in Chicago.
"We've got to win. There is no other option," Doughty said. "I think we're going to have our best effort of the series next game. All of the guys are going to step up to the plate. Our leaders are going to lead the way. Everyone else is going to follow. We're going to have our best effort."
The feeling down the hall was similar.
"We know they're a resilient group," Kane said. "They've won two Game 7s on the road in their first two series. It's going to be a tough one. Right now we're happy we got the win, but it doesn't mean anything because we haven't won anything yet. We'll get ready for the next one and we know they'll bring the best for Game 7."
|Dwight King (2) ASST: Jarret Stoll (2), Justin Williams (10)|
1 - 0 LAK
|PPG - Patrick Kane (7) ASST: Jonathan Toews (8), Brent Seabrook (10)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Ben Smith (4) ASST: Patrick Sharp (5), Brent Seabrook (11)|
2 - 1 CHI
|Drew Doughty (4) ASST: Dustin Brown (6), Mike Richards (6)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Alec Martinez (3) ASST: Drew Doughty (12)|
3 - 2 LAK
|Duncan Keith (4) ASST: Patrick Kane (10), Andrew Shaw (5)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Patrick Kane (8) ASST: Brandon Saad (9), Niklas Hjalmarsson (4)|
4 - 3 CHI
|Matt Greene Holding against Patrick Sharp|
|Anze Kopitar Holding against Jonathan Toews|
|Brent Seabrook Interference against Dustin Brown|
|Jonathan Toews Hooking against Marian Gaborik|