In addition to advancing on to the Stanley Cup Finals, this year’s iteration of the Chicago Blackhawks also managed to punctuate the victory as they did so. This group is not taking no for an answer.
Facing elimination, the Kings gave no indication they’d put up much of a fight by the close of the first period in Game 5. 2-0 Blackhawks. Duncan Keith gets Chicago on the board in the opening minutes and gives the Kings good reason to doubt Jonathan Quick’s preparation in the process. This is a softy; a slapper from well out that beat Quick ‘tween the pads. Uh, not the way L.A. hoped to start this one.
Just two minutes later, Patrick Kane adds the insurance marker as Jonathan Toews drives the net front and creates a goalmouth scramble. It was a savvy little display of patience on Kane’s part as he holds while pulling the puck across the net front. And why would you want to slide it along the ice into an empty net when you can bury it under the bar? (Wonder how the Bruins feel about this kid regaining his confidence?)
But credit the Kings for this much. After the opening period, they had every reason to pack the bus and return to the coast. But they shook it off, they cinched up their bootstraps and, with the exception of the second overtime, they outshot the Hawks in every period thereafter.
Dwight King nets one in the second and Anze Kopitar does the same early in the third. The Kings have battled back to even against the best team in the NHL in what might be the most imposing venue in professional sports. In my opinion, this and what comes next is what separates this tournament from all others.
With just 3:52 remaining in the final stanza, Kane breaks the tie with his fifth of the postseason. Surely the Kings are willing to go quietly by now? Enough already, right? Not so. During a late timeout in advance of a last chance faceoff in the Hawks’ zone, assistant coach Davis Payne draws up the play. And the Kings execute it to the letter. Mike Richards redirects it past Crawford to tie it with just nine seconds left.
Add to that, the Kings outshoot and out-chance the home team during the first overtime. Was it Butch or Sundance who said “who are those guys?”
Chicago is forced to dig in again. And to no one’s surprise, it’s Toews leading the way. Midway through the second OT, he sends a perfect pass through to Kane on a 2-on-1 as he pockets his third goal of the night.
Chicago moves on to face Boston. And as importantly, the Hawks declare in the process that this is a team that refuses to be denied. The Bruins may have something to say about that. In any case, the table is set for another great Final.
See you around the rink.