When Joel Quenneville put together the line of Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw before Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, his expectations were reasonable: The latter two had played well in the previous game, and he hoped they could get Kane out of his offensive funk.
Two games later, that line is the reason the Chicago Blackhawks have pushed their series with the Los Angeles Kings to a Game 7.
Kane’s goal at 16:15 of the third period on Friday night broke a 3-3 tie and proved to be the game-winner, as the Blackhawks skated out of Staples Center with a thrilling 4-3 Game 6 victory.
Saad skated hard into the Kings’ zone down the right wing and dished the puck to Kane, who then put on a exhibition: Moving around the LA defense, moving just inside the blue line and then blowing a wrist shot past Jonathan Quick.
(How appropriate that the player who yelled “showtime!” after a highlight reel goal earlier in the playoffs would score the series’ biggest goal in the home of the “Showtime” Lakers …)
“This team just sticks with it. For some reason, when the chips are down, we’ve got a lot of guys that step up,” said Kane after the game, after scoring this fourth game-winner of the postseason.
Kane, Saad and Shaw combined for 3 goals and 11 assists in Games 5 and 6. Kane himself has seven points in his last two games.
Corey Crawford (26 saves), meanwhile, outdueled Jonathan Quick (21 saves) for the victory. Crawford made some remarkable saves in his best game of the series, including two good ones in the last 10 seconds of the game. The two looked like they might actually duel during the game, sharing words after the second period.
Dwight King opened the scoring at 17:03 of the first period, on a hard-working shift by some of LA’s grinders. King ended up uncovered, a few feet away from Crawford.
The Blackhawks found life off the stick of Kane just 1:12 into the second period.
Anze Kopitar was in the box on a holding penalty, but the Kings still won the faceoff. They couldn’t clear the zone, thanks to a pinch from Duncan Keith, and from that moment on the Blackhawks played catch on the power play. Jonathan Toews found Kane cutting to the net, and his shot was quicker than Quick.
It was their first power play goal in their last 24 chances on the road, and only their second road man advantage goal of the playoffs.
Chicago stunned the Kings and took the lead under two minutes later.
On a play that Brent Seabrook started with a blocked shot in the defensive zone, Patrick Sharp found Ben Smith across the ice with a pass. Smith move in on Quick, didn’t have a shot, and then sneakily reversed course to bank the puck off the left skate of the Kings goalie and into the net for the 2-1 lead at 2:49.
Doughty tied the game in the third period on a great bit of forechecking by the Kings – with a little puck luck.
Twice it appeared the puck was going to be cleared. The first time, it just rolled off Brandon Saad’s stick. The second time, a bad Dustin Brown pass bounced off of Saad’s skate to Doughty, who fired the puck home through a perfect Mike Richards’ screen for the 2-2 tie at 5:32.
With Toews in the box for hooking, Drew Doughty kept the puck in the zone and then dished to Alec Martinez in the slot. He loaded the cannon and beat Corey Crawford 5-hole for the 3-2 lead, as Brent Seabrook was late with this sliding block attempt.
While the Kings star defenseman was putting on a show, it was time for the Blackhawks’ Norris nominee to be heard from.
Duncan Keith tied the game at 11:34 with a hard blocker side shot on Quick. Saad intercepted a Doughty clearing attempt, passed to Andrew Shaw who then fed Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks sniper, skating towards the blue line, sent a perfect pass to Keith, who beat Jake Muzzin to the middle of the ice and then beat Quick for the tie.
And then it was showtime for "Showtime" Patrick Kane.
So it’s a Game 7 on Sunday night between the Blackhawks, one of the best home teams in the playoffs, and the Kings, who have several players that have never lost a Game 7 in their careers.