By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks evened the Western Conference Final with the Los Angeles Kings at three games apiece, prevailing in a see-saw affair at the Staples Center Friday night. Chicago trailed midway through the final period but rallied to score a 4-3 Game 6 victory.
Patrick Kane came up with a huge night on the offensive end. Kaner wound up with a pair of goals, including the game-winner late in the game.
First Period-The action didn’t match the breakneck pace of Wednesday’s first overtime, though both teams pushed the tempo. Marian Hossa had the first serious chance of the game when he one-timed a pass from Jonathan Toews. Jonathan Quick stopped the attempt, however. Andrew Shaw had a good look at the net coming toward the right post a moment later but Slava Voynov got the puck off of his stick.
The Kings got a loose puck in front of the crease in the fifth minute which seemed to sit there forever before Corey Crawford got on it to end the scoring threat. There was a definite ebb and flow before Dwight King got behind Brandon Saad and made his way to the Blackhawks net. Saad recovered enough to force a miss by King and the action zoomed up and down the ice.
Quick handled a shot by Kane and denied a rebound with Shaw at the doorstep late in the tenth minute. With 8:17 remaining, Quick got on a Hossa attempt before Bryan Bickell could attempt a put back.
The Hawks gained a power play when Patrick Sharp was held by Matt Greene at the 13:34 mark. Los Angeles prevented entry for most of the first minute and Chicago came up empty.
The Kings got on the board with 2:57 left in the first off a dump-in into the Chicago zone. Jarret Stoll beat Brent Seabrook to the puck and got off a centering pass. King found himself with a lot of space in the slot, took the puck from Stoll and fired over Crawford’s glove for the goal. After a spirited opening 20 minutes, the Blackhawks trailed 1-0.
Second Period-Toews drew a holding penalty from Anze Kopitar 20 seconds into the middle frame. On the resulting power play, the captain got the puck behind the right post. Toews patiently waited for Kane to get into position in the slot and found him for the one-timer past Quick. The power play goal, Chicago’s first in its last 24 attempts, tied the game 1:12 into the period.
Minutes later, the Hawks took their first lead of the night. Sharp got control of the puck at the L.A. blue line and hit Ben Smith coming down the right side. Smith skated past Quick, who prevented a direct assault on the net. However, Smith got behind the Kings goalie and banked a shot off of Quick’s left pad to make it 2-1 at the 2:49 mark.
Chicago had a golden opportunity to take a two-goal advantage shortly after getting in front. Catching the Kings in a line change, Marcus Kruger led Sharp on a 2-on-1 in the fifth minute. Sharp’s attempt was blocked by Quick and struck the crossbar and failed to enter the net.
The teams returned to the up and down action. Crawford weathered a couple of barrages in front of his net near the midway point of the period to keep the Hawks up a goal. Crawford made an outstanding save of a Marian Gaborik shot before Seabrook was called for interference against Dustin Brown. With 8:03 to go in the second period, the Kings went on the man advantage.
Johnny Oduya made an incredible defensive play to prevent the equalizer late in the power play, getting a stick on an Alec Martinez wraparound attempt. Martinez had well over half the net in which to deposit the puck but thanks to Oduya the Hawks went on to kill the penalty.
Neither team converted on late chances as the sands ran out on the period. After some jawing between goalies after the horn, the Hawks entered the second intermission leading 2-1.
Third Period-Nick Leddy got off a point-blank shot on goal in the second minute that Quick sent out of play. The pace slowed in the first half of the final period, though the Blackhawks were still able to apply pressure in the Kings zone.
In the sixth minute, Chicago was unable to clear the defensive zone and the Kings captialized. A Dustin Brown pass attempt was blocked by Saad but the puck made its way to Drew Doughty in open ice between the circles. The shot went past a screened Crawford 5:32 into the period to knot the score at two goals apiece.
The momentum continued to swing in favor of the Kings as Toews hooked Kopitar to send them on another power play at the 5:55 mark. Doughty drew the Hawks defense then hit Martinez, who zipped a shot through Crawford’s pads to give Los Angeles a 3-2 lead with 12:22 left to play in the contest.
The Hawks responded by tying the game again with 8:26 to go. Duncan Keith jumped into the play and got off a wrist shot past Quick’s stick side. Brandon Saad provided a screen on the play as Chicago drew even.
In the sixteenth minute, Kane whipped up a little magic to give Chicago the lead. Taking a pass from Saad near the right dot, Kane skated along the blue line into a scoring position at the top of the left circle. The shot, with Shaw and Saad in front of the net, beat Quick 16:15 into the third period to put the Hawks up 4-3.
Quick was pulled for an extra skater with about 90 seconds to play as the Kings attempted to send the game into overtime. Coach Darryl Sutter called his timeout with 1:04 remaining to set up the final Los Angeles charge. And charge they did.
The Kings sent everyone at Crawford in the final seconds. The Chicago goalie made a pair of saves before Niklas Hjalmarsson knocked the puck out to the blue line. Time ran out on L.A. as the Blackhawks are now flying home for Game 7.
Three Stars-Keith (third), Doughty (second), Kane (first)
-The poise shown by the Hawks after L.A. scored twice to pull ahead in the game shouldn’t come as a surprise. That doesn’t make it any less impressive. Chicago got off the deck in front of a fired up Staples Center crowd and tore out their hearts.
-Crow stopped 26 of 29 shots and wasn’t afraid to get in the face of his counterpart after Quick took offense to Shaw being pushed into the crease at the close of the second period.
-Coach Joel Quenneville elected to skate Sheldon Brookbank as a forward in lieu of Kris Versteeg. That didn’t fill me with confidence until I figured Quenneville was shortening his bench anyway and an extra defensemen might not be a bad thing.
-Brookbank was used sparingly and mostly as a defenseman in his five minutes of ice time. Brookbank’s last shift resulted in Doughty’s tying goal early in the third. Where am I going with this? Beats me. Peter Regin might not be a bad addition in Game 7 but who can argue with a win?
-Something tells me that the Hawks’ flight to Chicago will be easier than that of the Kings. Sunday’s action begins at 7:00 p.m. Are you ready?