ONE GOAL II: Blackhawks Advance to Stanley Cup Final
An overtime hat trick from Patrick Kane clinched a berth into the 2013 Stanley Cup Final with a 4-1 series win over L.A.
The following story originally appeared in 'One Goal II: The Inside Story of the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks'
June brought with it a new and formidable opponent: the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, who had also just survived a marathon seven-game set against the San Jose Sharks. With playoff hero Jonathan Quick performing at the top of his game, the Blackhawks' concern heading into the Western Conference Final was how best to break his concentration.
Bryan Bickell turned out to be the solution, parking himself in the high-traffic areas and making himself un-towable. Game 1 was a clenched fist, the Blackhawks squeezing out a 2-1 victory thanks to a four-minute spurt in the second period that yielded goals by Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Game 2 the next night was a lesson in goal-scoring efficiency and teamwork.
Efficiency came in the form of four goals in a matter of 17 shots, bringing a swift end to Quick's night and summoning backup Jonathan Bernier to the ice.
Teamwork came a little bit later, after Kings agitator Kyle Clifford engaged Jonathan Toews in a post-whistle scuffle near the Blackhawks crease. Corey Crawford, usually taking the spectator's position as a goalie, got into the fray with Clifford, then engaged Bernier in a stare-down at 60 paces. All of a sudden, it seemed like the Blackhawks were - is it possible? - having fun with this whole playoffs business.
"That was great," Toews chuckled later. "I was pretty much laughing. It was one of those moments; after the play you could hear the whole crowd respond to it."
The Kings regained some of their confidence in Game 3, winning 3-1 to improve to 8-0 at the Staples Center in the 2013 playoffs. That perfect record, coupled with Duncan Keith's one-game suspension for high-sticking Jeff Carter, presented Chicago with an uphill battle in Game 4. The Blackhawks, naturally, responded with their best road effort of the postseason thus far, recovering from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits by taking advantage of the Kings' rare lapses in focus while smothering their offense. Chicago's defense allowed just 21 shots, Bickell netted a goal for the third consecutive game, and at the end of the night the Blackhawks flew home with a hard-earned 3-2 victory and a 3-1 edge in the series.
Big games beg for big performances, and if Game 4 was a complete team effort, Game 5 produced the most thrilling individual performance yet, as Patrick Kane's hat trick continued the Blackhawks' march toward the Stanley Cup - although it took nearly 92 minutes of frantic hockey to produce the winning play.
Kane's second goal of the night, at 16:08 of the third period, could have been the regulation clincher, were it not for Mike Richard's game-tying goal with 10 seconds left. But who could deny Kane his second career playoff hat trick, especially on this stage?
"Right now it's almost like I'm in a different zone, like the Twilight Zone or something," Kane said after his one-timer in double overtime dispatched the defending champions. "I'm kind of out of it. It's definitely a good feeling though.
"Their bodies and minds may have been tired, but make no mistake, the Blackhawks were energized by one simple fact: They were headed back to the Stanley Cup Final.