On a certain level, it was disappointing the Los Angeles Kings missed the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. Any chance for the Chicago Blackhawks to match up with them again was gone, and those two teams, as they were formerly constructed, could put on a show.
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One of those shows is the next entry on our countdown of top Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville. We’re headed back to the shorter of the two recent postseason series between these teams, to a game the Blackhawks ripped away from the jaws of defeat.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 42: 2013 Western Conference finals, Game 4
Chicago Blackhawks 3, Los Angeles Kings 2
Somewhere out there is likely a list of most irritating features at NHL arenas. Behind the Arizona Coyotes’ howl after each goal scored has to be L.A.’s “Go Kings Go” chant, courtesy South Park’s Eric Cartman. It doesn’t play after the Kings score, like the howl does after the Coyotes do (so it played like six times last season). It just plays at random. And it’s incessant.
Thankfully, the Blackhawks wouldn’t have to come back to Staples Center in this series to hear it more. Two consecutive wins, starting with one in this game, achieved that.
The contest didn’t start out so great, though. The Kings were coming off a home win to cut Chicago’s series edge to 2-1. They’d get on the board first here, too. After Jonathan Toews went hard to the net and ended up rolling over Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles took play the other direction with its fourth line. A scrum in front of Corey Crawford saw Kyle Clifford earn the puck and take it to the opposite side of the net, where he fired it out to Slava Voynov above the circles. The defenseman let loose a shot that beat Crow and put the Kings ahead less than four minutes in.
Jeff Carter had a great chance a short time later, blasting a shot through traffic at Crawford. The puck redirected right as it reached Crow, forcing a big pad save while Dustin Penner was whacking away on the doorstep.
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After some back-and-forth action, the Blackhawks would respond late in the period. Niklas Hjalmarsson showed good patience in right in front of his bench, waiting for the Blackhawks to get done with a line change. A pass intended for Michael Frolik eventually found Bryan Bickell, who actually utilized his underrated wrister and beat Quick despite the goaltender getting a piece of the puck. The game was tied at 1 on that relatively soft goal.
An unlikely duo teamed up for what was almost the second Chicago goal even later in the first period. Michal Rozsival let go a shot from the point, and the traffic it went through caused the puck to trickle to an area where Quick needed to come up with a big pad stop. But he wasn’t done yet, as Bickell was at the doorstep smashing away for a rebound bid.
The Kings didn’t have many chances in this game — they were outshot 28-21 — but they found another goal early in the second period. After Brandon Saad made a bit of a young-player mistake by throwing a shot to the opposite side of Quick’s net with no Blackhawk there to corral it, the Kings raced down the ice on an odd-man rush. Nick Leddy actually did a nice job defending Carter, who was gliding toward Crawford, but Carter saw Penner had position on Sheldon Brookbank in front. Carter spun around and fired a pass to Penner, who had a tap-in for a 2-1 Kings lead.
Things could have gotten worse not long after, as Justin Williams found himself streaking down the ice on a breakaway. But Crawford timed a poke-check beautifully to kill that chance.
POKE! (Screenshot from YouTube)
The Blackhawks had a 5-on-3 powerplay about 6:30 into the period that they predictably failed to score on, while Tyler Toffoli had a great man-advantage chance of his own with about six minutes to go in the second. Toffoli received a centering pass out in front of Crawford, but Brent Seabrook got just enough of the puck to tip it away from harm.
So naturally, it took an absolute yard sale of a play for another goal to occur. With less than two minutes to go in the middle frame, the Blackhawks were applying ample pressure to Quick and Co. It all started when Toews got away with a cross check on Voynov down low, giving the captain a fantastic doorstep chance. Quick snuffed that out, but the puck rolled to a corner behind the net. Patrick Kane would retrieve it and get it out to Hjalmarsson, who was essentially undefended. He whipped a shot on net, and Bickell tipped it in front. With the puck rolling toward the goal line, Kane came through the back door and tapped it home while tripping over a prone Quick, tying the game at 2.
The Blackhawks would get the only lead they’d need very early in the third when Johnny Oduya kept the Kings from getting the puck in deep, instead sending it to Michal Handzus for a 2-on-2 with Marian Hossa. For some reason, both Kings defenders were leaning toward Handzus, leaving Hossa open for a sweet one-time chance. He hammered the puck past a sprawling Quick, and the Blackhawks were up 3-2.
Sure, the highlight of that play was the goal. But this also happened afterward:
Is that Cal Ripken Jr.? (Screenshot from YouTube)
It never gets old celebrating your team’s goals in the opposing team’s arena, that’s for sure.
Bickell received yet another great opportunity a few minutes later when his active stick stopped Robyn Regehr from moving the puck up ice. Bickell’s subsequent wrist shot was stopped by Quick. Kane would also have a good bid stopped by Quick, though the effectiveness of his goaltending style on the stop is probably up for questioning.
Draw me like one of your French girls. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Chicago would need to overcome a late high-sticking penalty by Frolik and some empty-net 6-on-5 time for L.A., which the Blackhawks ultimately did en route to the win. This would set the scene for a really memorable Game 5, which probably should’ve clued us in to what would happen the next time these teams met in the playoffs.
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