-- Patrick Kane
was almost in a state of disbelief after recording the first hat trick of his playoff career en route to leading the Chicago Blackhawks
to a 7-5 victory over the Vancouver Canucks
in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal on Monday night at the United Center.
It was an unassisted tally with 3:43 remaining that sealed the deal for the home team and their 22,687 screaming fans. For Kane, the moment will forever be etched in his memory bank.
"It was Game 6 and it was an elimination game," said Kane, surrounded by 20-plus reporters inside Chicago's locker room after his team had just eliminated the Vancouver Canucks
in six games to advance to the conference final for the first time in 14 years.
"Winning the game was one thing, but scoring the hat trick gave me chills down my spine," Kane admitted. "Especially after my third goal when I was skating back to center ice to hug (Brian) Campbell; I didn't even know what was going on over the final 3-4 minutes of the game. I don't know why I was even on the ice, because I was in another world."
For Kane, who happens to be in only his second NHL season, it was the loudest he's ever heard the United Center. It's somewhat surprising the roof didn't blow clean off following Kane's third goal of the game and eighth of these Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"Yeah, it was the loudest I've ever heard this place and it was certainly fun to be a part of and we're just looking forward to the next series now," Kane said.
After capturing the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year last season, Kane has proven this campaign that, despite his 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame, the native of Buffalo, N.Y., is developing into a superstar.
"I've basically fought (for respect) my whole career," Kane said. "When I was 9-years-old, they said I wouldn't be able to take a hit and when I started hitting they said once I got in with guys bigger than me, that I wouldn't be able to do anything. Then it was once I reached the NHL, it would be a different level and, most recently, they said I was too small to be successful in the playoffs. But, the thing is, I'm so comfortable playing with these guys; it's just a great team. It was a great night -- one I'll never forget."
Kane, who had 3 goals, 4 points and was named the first star of Game 6, leads Chicago with 8 goals and 13 points in 11 postseason games this spring. He ranked second on the team with 70 points (25 goals) in 80 regular season games.
"We just have a great group of guys in this locker room, but, really, to win back-to-back series against two Canadian teams (Calgary and Vancouver) was awesome," Kane said. "There was a lot of pressure and, really, we're not satisfied with this. Let's take it as far as we can go."
Kane's second goal of the game with seven minutes remaining in the third pulled Chicago into a 5-5 tie and seemed to swing the momentum back in his team's favor for the remainder of the contest. The Hawks battled from three deficits in the game -- 1-0, 4-3 and 5-4 -- before receiving the go-ahead goal by Jonathan Toews
with 6:11 remaining in the third.
"This team has fought back during the entire playoffs and it's something we are very proud of," Kane said. "I think we have just a great bunch of players, from the first line to the fourth line, both goalies and our six defenders. And it's great to know that we're still going so it's going to be fun. I don't know if younger legs prevailed in this series, but I do know that an awesome group of guys pulled together again and that was the difference."
Said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault
: "You've got to give them credit. They are one of the best-skilled offensive teams I've seen. The people of Chicago are going to have a great team for years to come."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.