LOS ANGELES -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane scored the game-winner Friday in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final with an unbelievable individual effort. But that goal, which gave the Blackhawks a 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Kings and forced a Game 7, wouldn't have come without an equally sublime play from the superstar forward almost five minutes earlier.
Kane's exquisite assist on defenseman Duncan Keith's goal, which made it 3-3 with 8:26 remaining in regulation, was the turning point of the game -- and perhaps the series.
Game 7 is Sunday in Chicago (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Kings opened the third period with a pair of goals, each coming as a result of an insanely good play by Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty. He scored the goal that made it 2-2 and set up a power-play goal by Alec Martinez that gave Los Angeles its second lead of the game.
Suddenly, Chicago's season was hanging in the balance. The Blackhawks were down 3-2 in the game and 3-2 in the series with 12:22 remaining to find two answers.
Kane helped Chicago come up with the first one 3:56 after Martinez scored. It came on his fifth assist in the past two games.
Kane took a pass from center Andrew Shaw and saw the Los Angeles defense collapsing toward him. He took the puck up the side wall a bit, saw Keith knifing forward on the attack and feathered a pass to the defenseman, who ripped a shot that beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to the short side. It was Keith's fourth goal of the postseason.
"[Duncan] did a great job of splitting through the zone there, beat the guy and made a great shot," Kane said.
Less than five minutes later, Kane silenced the Staples Center crowd with another act of individual brilliance. This time, he sensed he could not get past the defense, applied the brakes and circled back up the right side toward the Kings' blue line before curling to the center of the ice between the circles. Kane saw an opening and he took it, scoring his second goal of the game.
The Blackhawks held on from there, setting up Game 7 on Sunday, when they'll play for the right to defend their crown against the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final.
Chicago knows it will be playing in that game because of the brilliance of Kane, who had a career-best four assists in Game 5 and two goals and an assist in Game 6.
"Us players in here, we get the privilege of playing with a guy like that every day and seeing the things he can do," Keith said. "Not everybody's going to dominate a game every single game, there's a lot of hockey, a lot of good teams and a lot of good players. But you know that when it comes down to crunch time, him and [Jonathan Toews], I don't really know if there's two other guys I'd want to have on my team."