CHICAGO -- The 2013 Western Conference Final ended in five games and in grand fashion, with Patrick Kane completing a hat trick in double overtime to send the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final.
Kane had been scuffling during this spring's rematch with the Los Angeles Kings, but some new linemates helped him bust out of a slump in a big way Wednesday with another wonderful Game 5 performance. The circumstances were a little different, but Kane had four assists, including one on Michal Handzus' winner in double overtime that enabled the defending champions to avoid elimination with a 5-4 victory at United Center.
"He's a special player," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of Kane. "They've been tight on him. They got a tight gap. It's tough to get through that neutral zone with possession. ... Read off his new linemates there, figured things out quickly. He anticipates as good as any player. Patience level with the puck is as good as anyone. Nice to see him get a big night like that."
Quenneville placed Kane, who had one assist in the first four games, on a line with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, and it proved to be the best trio in a fabulous game.
The Blackhawks had fewer than 50 percent of the shot attempts at even strength with Kane on the ice through four games, but 63.6 percent in Game 5. Kane, Saad and Shaw combined for nine points and 15 of Chicago's 45 shots on goal, and the Blackhawks in an incredibly even contest had more than 62 percent of the shot attempts with them on the ice.
"It was a fun game playing with them," Kane said. "They're extremely hard workers. Personally, I thought [Saad] was the best player on the ice tonight. He was bringing so much speed and puck protection. He was awesome."
Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya said, "They were great. [Saad] was unbelievable, just flying. They drove the boat, or whatever you can say."
Handzus was the team's second-line center during the 2013 Cup run, and he scored the tying goal in a comeback victory 366 days before this, in Game 6 of the second round against the Detroit Red Wings. He hasn't played as well in this postseason, and the Blackhawks have struggled to match the Kings' depth, particularly at center.
But he replaced Shaw for a faceoff early in the second overtime and ended up with the Game 6-forcing goal. Handzus helped break up a play in the neutral zone, and Kane carried the puck toward the offensive zone. He sent a pass to his right to Saad, who found Handzus alone cutting toward the net.
"I wasn't very happy with my play," said Handzus, whose perfect backhander beat Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick cleanly for the win. "I'm glad that I came through. It's one game only. I know I got to get better. Hopefully it helps me."
The Kings still lead the series 3-2 and can advance to the Stanley Cup Final by winning Game 6 on Friday at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Los Angeles started slowly, but erased a 3-1 deficit and was 20 minutes from advancing to the Final before yielding a goal early in the third period.
"It was a good hockey game, but not a hockey game we want to lose," said Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, who played more than 39 minutes and had 12 shot attempts. "It's going to hurt a little bit tonight. Tomorrow is a new day."
Chicago forward Ben Smith tied the game at 4-4. Saad put a shot on goal from near the left point during a rush; Smith reached the rebound and put it in before falling to the ice at 1:17 of the third period.
The first overtime was tremendous, 20 minutes of nearly non-stop action and pace. Each team had great chances. After some earlier missteps, each goaltender was solid. It was the best period of hockey in this series, with the past two Stanley Cup champions playing at a tremendously high level.
"I've seen a lot of games, been involved in a lot of games," Quenneville said. "That might have been the greatest overtime I've seen."
After Saad scored 11:06 into the first period to push Chicago's lead to 3-1, Marian Gaborik answered 2:10 later with his League-leading 11th goal of the postseason. Quick stopped Jonathan Toews on a great chance at one end, and on the return rush Gaborik scored on a one-timer from Anze Kopitar that trickled through Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, capping a wild, five-goal opening period.
Dustin Brown tied the score 3-3 with a rebound goal at 11:08 of the second period. Brent Seabrook blocked the original shot, but was unable to get back and prevent Brown from scoring on the third try from in close after Gaborik had two chances.
Tanner Pearson gave Los Angeles its first lead of the game exactly two minutes later. Pearson and Jeff Carter created a turnover in the neutral zone, and the Kings rookie snapped a shot from the right circle through a screen that beat Crawford high to the far side.
Seabrook put Chicago in front 73 seconds into the first period with a power-play goal from the top of the offensive zone. Oduya made it 2-0 at 3:40. Kane carried the puck into the offensive zone and, after some nifty stickhandling to keep control while waiting for others to join him, put a shot on net from the right circle that Quick failed to handle. Oduya, who had pinched in, was able to tuck home the rebound.
Jarret Stoll scored on a scramble in front of the Chicago net to make it a 2-1 game at 9:49. The puck was laying in the crease for several seconds as a collection of players tried to get a handle on it, but Stoll was able to punch a shot into the top right corner before Crawford could react.
Chicago won Game 1 of this series and scored the first two goals of Game 2 before Los Angeles got rolling. The Kings scored 14 of the next 17 goals to claim Games 2 and 3 and take a commanding 4-0 lead en route to a 5-2 victory in Game 4.
Los Angeles still has two more chances to knock out the defending champs, but the Blackhawks showed it might take something special to do so. The Kings should know: It took Kane's hat trick in Game 5 last spring to end their title defense.
"We came back, showed some character. [We] just couldn't find a way to get the winner," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "It's not easy, it's never going to be easy, especially against the defending champions and a team that's won and knows how to win. No one said it would be easy."