The Chicago Blackhawks took game six of the Western Conference finals, and edged the Kings to force game seven. Down 3-2 midway through the third, the Hawks followed Patrick Kane to a thrilling comeback victory. Game seven goes Sunday night at the United Center in Chicago.
Chicago came into this game facing the daunting task of winning one on the road. Their away record for the 2014 playoffs was 2-6, and they had lost the previous two games in the Staples Center earlier in the series. However, the Kings have had a rather equivocal home record throughout the playoffs and the Blackhawks, having forced game six after staving off elimination at home in the previous game, were up to the task.
Patrick Kane had been rather quiet in the first four games of the series, but made his presence felt in game five with four assists. For the Hawks to have a chance at the Staples Center, he would have to have another stellar performance, and a stellar performance it was indeed. With two goals, including the game winner, and an assist, Kane galvanized a team that had been outshot in the third, allowing the Chicago Blackhawks to edge the Kings and force game seven.
The Kings opened the scoring late in the third when Dwight King, left all alone by a lifeless defensive effort, got fed the puck from behind the net and beat Corey Crawford five-hole. The second period belonged to Chicago, however, as the Hawks were able to score two just over a minute and a half apart early in the frame, while Crawford shut the door on a pressing LA offense. The Kings returned the favour in the third with the Drew Doughty show in full effect. Doughty tied the game at two with a wrist shot that beat a screened Crawford, and then fed a behind-the-back pass to Martinez on the power-play, whose shot went through two pairs of legs to take a 3-2 lead.
Despite having only 3 shots on net in the third the Hawks were able to find the net twice more, with Kane setting up Duncan Keith to tie the game and Kane himself wheeling throughout the zone to find some room short side on Jonathan Quick to take the lead. It was then up to Crawford to bring it home, as the Kings were pressing hard. A late scramble with the extra man provided a couple of good chances, but the Hawks goalie was at his best, putting up a wall and sending the game back to Chicago.
While the Kings must have felt good about their chances in game six, they now face a Blackhawks team that has lost only once at home in these playoffs. However, the only loss in that 8-1 record was against the Kings, so LA knows they can win. The Kings must now win their third straight game seven victory on the road, but also face the prospect of giving up three games straight, which they have done in both previous series against the San Jose Sharks and then the Anaheim Ducks.
Whether Chicago can continue that trend remains to be seen, but if game six was any indication, the final game should be a wild affair. After edging the Kings to force game seven, the Chicago Blackhawks must feel as if they will have an excellent chance to face the Rangers and defend their Stanley Cup championship. So long as Kane and Crawford step up again on Sunday night, with a little help from their friends, there just may be another pair of original six teams in the finals for the second year running.
Commentary by Bryan A. Jones