June 8, 2013
United Center, Chicago Illinois
#3 L.A. Kings vs. #1 Chicago Blackhawks
Game Five of the Western Conference Final wasn’t your average hockey game, even your average playoff hockey game. The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings put on a show for the rest of the league to see. If the Blackhawks win; they get a date with the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. If the Kings take it; they stay alive, and take the series back home to California.
The Blackhawks took control of the series immediately, cruising to two victories at home. The Kings took Game Three back in L.A. after Chicago lost their composure. A Duncan Keith-less Blackhawks team took Game Four, and pushed the defending Cup Champs to the brink of elimination.
The United Center was a sea of red, ready to see their hometown team advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks would try to avoid letting the Kings do the very same thing they had to do the round before, win the last three games of the series. Winning Game Five would avoid a trip back to the Staples Center in L.A, a place where the Kings were 8-1 in the 2013 Playoffs.
The Madhouse was rocking, and the Blackhawks fed that fire. Just 3:42 into the game, Duncan Keith took a cross-ice pass and fired one on the rush just inside the blue-line that beat Jonathan Quick up high. The Blackhawks had the ice-breaker on a weak effort by the reigning Conn Smythe winner. Quick’s composure wouldn’t get any better after that, as Patrick Kane buried just two minutes later to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. After Jonathan Toews jammed at it, Kane skated in and patiently went out wide before putting it in the wide-open net. The first period would remain dominated by the Blackhawks, but no more goals would be scored. Shots were 10-4 Chicago after 20 minutes of play.
The second period should have been a good period for the ’Hawks. Three minutes in, the Blackhawks head to the powerplay, something that wasn’t clicking despite their skill and speed. The Kings unravelled Chicago in their defensive end, and Justin Williams and Dwight King made them pay. After giving up the puck along the wall, the two Kings streaked down the ice, and after Corey Crawford steered away Williams’ shot, King made no mistake, driving home his second of the Playoffs to get the Kings within one. The Blackhawks’ man-advantage suffered another blow, and silenced the United Center crowd that was rowdy up until then. Marian Hossa had a golden opportunity to regain the two-goal lead on a breakaway, but the puck was smothered by Quick in tight. The score would stay that way as the horn sounded, and the Blackhawks were only 20 minutes away from another trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Blackhawks came out hot, knowing that one goal could be enough to put the Kings to rest. After some great defence, L.A. finally got their turn on offense, and after sustaining pressure, Anze Kopitar found the back of the net to tie it up. Kopitar snapped a 7-game goalless drought with the goal. The game was now tied with 17 minutes to play, and a tight battle ensued. It would stay that way until the end of the third. With under 4 minutes to go, the Toews-Kane-Bickell line was out there again. A good forecheck by the Blackhawks captain gave them possession, and he fired a pass out in front to #88 for his second of the game. The Blackhawks thought they had delivered the dagger, but Mike Richards had other ideas.
After winning a faceoff, Slava Voynov took the shot, and Richards directed it past Crawford to tie the game with 9.7 seconds left. The United Center, just a handful of seconds away from exploding, was muted. Their Blackhawks were going to overtime.
The first extra frame was a tough one to watch for fans of both teams. L.A. and Chicago were both inches away from ending the game multiple times, but thanks to some good fortune, and great goaltending, 20 minutes wasn’t enough.
Things didn’t pick up in the second overtime either, with both teams playing conservative after the crazy 20 minutes before them. Patrick Kane was all over the Kings, and he had a little bit of gas left in the tank.
Great pressure up high in the defensive zone gave Toews the puck. Rob Scuderi had no chance against the two speedy forwards, and after a great pass, Kane delivered the wicked shot into the empty net at over 130 km/h. The Blackhawks were moving on.
It was a game that will go down as one to remember. The score could have been much different if either goaltender batted an eye, but Chicago had too many opportunities in the end. Corey Crawford played brilliant, stopping 13 shots after regulation, and 33 total. Patrick Kane had his second career playoff hat trick, and the first in a Western Conference Final clinching game since Wayne Gretzky. Kane’s brilliant outing was much needed, after the papers were coming out with headlines like “Kane M.I.A.” after going goalless in his last seven games. The Conn Smythe winner started a torrid pace he never let up throughout the finals in Game Five, and Blackhawks fans were thankful. Most importantly, the biggest step so far was a success, and the Blackhawks punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.