CHICAGO - The Los Angeles Kings did everything they could to avoid it, but the Chicago Blackhawks still ended the defending Stanley Cup champions' season on Saturday night at the United Center.
It took double overtime, but Patrick Kane's goal at 11:40 of the second extra period -- capping off a hat-trick in the game -- gave Chicago a 4-3 win in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final series to send the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final. They will face the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins in Game 1 on Wednesday in Chicago in an Original Six matchup, the first since 1979.
"Big two wins the last couple games, especially tonight after they came back and tied it up with (10) seconds left," said Kane, whose second goal beat Jonathan Quick with just 3:52 left in regulation, only to have Mike Richards tie it up for L.A. with 10 seconds left to force OT. "For us to hang in there in the first overtime and pull it out in the second overtime was huge. We definitely didn't want to go back to L.A. and it was just a huge win to get us to the finals."
The Stanley Cup Finals open Wednesday night at Chicago with an 8 pm ET start. It will be the first time in team history that the Blackhawks have faced the Bruins for the Cup.
It will be Boston's second appearance in the Cup final in the past three seasons, after winning it in 2011, and Chicago's second in the past four - after winning in 2010.
Getting there Saturday was anything but easy for the Blackhawks, who raced out to a 2-0 lead in the game's first six minutes and watched the Kings tie it up not once, but twice.
Duncan Keith and Kane scored the first two goals for Chicago, both early in the first, while Dwight King and Anze Kopitar countered to knot it at 2 with goals late in the second and early in the third.
Kane's second goal late in the third came off a nice feed from Bryan Bickell, who wasn't called for a penalty going for the puck behind the net and knocking a Kings player to the ice. That goal looked like it would stand up as the game-winner until Richards had a shot by Kopitar deflect off his pants into the short side of the net to force OT.
Bickell had a role in that goal, too. He mistakenly iced the puck to set up the faceoff in the Chicago zone that led to Kopitar's shot with Quick pulled for the extra attacker.
"I thought we played hard ... obviously a tough one to swallow," said Richards, who played for the first time since getting injured (upper-body injury) in Game 1 on a hard hit by Chicago's Dave Bolland. "I thought we had some confidence going into (overtime). We had the chances. Give them credit, their goaltender made some big saves."
Corey Crawford, who made 33 saves for the win, did come up with just enough key saves.
Quick (31 saves) made his share, too, but Kane beat him three times - the second time Kane has recorded a hat trick in the playoffs. The third one finally put an end to a tough series for both teams.
After a pass by Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Kane ripped a one-timer past Quick that gave the Madhouse on Madison its second overtime series-clinching goal in a row. Kane has now scored four goals in the past two games after taking criticism for lack of production in a Game 3 loss at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"You get that confidence when one goes in," Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. "You get the weight off the shoulders. You've seen the last couple games, Kaner's getting the puck with space and time and he's making good plays. Hopefully that continues."
Keith was also under some scrutiny after a high sticking incident drew a one-game suspension from the NHL for whacking Jeff Carter in the mouth in retaliation for a slash in the third game. It didn't take him long to make an impact, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead just 3:42 into the game off a point blast that went through Quick's pads and skittered into the net.
Keith, who talked with Carter in the handshake line afterward, also played a whopping 40:12 to lead all skaters in ice time.
"It felt good to get back in," Keith said. "It felt good for the first 10 minutes, anyway. It was nice to see that one go in. I didn't really expect it. I was just trying to get it on net. The whole suspension thing, I've said enough about it. It wasn't what I meant to do even though it didn't look very good."
In the first overtime, the Kings outshot the Blackhawks 11-6 and had several good scoring chances stonewalled by Crawford - including a nice glove save off a close-range backhand shot by Justin Williams with 10:08 left.
Chicago's best chance to end it in the first OT came off the stick of defenseman Brent Seabrook, whose goal ended gave the Blackhawks the conference semifinals series against the Detroit Red Wings in overtime of Game 7, also in Chicago. This time, Seabrook fired a slap shot from the right circle with 4:10 left in OT that beat Quick to the far side but sailed just past the post.
The game was the longest in Kings' team history. It was also the most painful from an emotional standpoint in recent history.
"Sometimes you have to lose again to remember how hard it was to win," said Williams, who set up King's shorthanded goal with a nice tip pass down low. "We'll keep this bad feeling until we get another go at it. I don't take much solace in losing. Yeah, we were one of the final four, but that wasn't our goal when we set out to start the season. We're not able to defend what we did last year, and that's the frustrating thing."
Kane scored his fourth goal of the playoffs less than three minutes after Keith's goal, at 5:59 of the first, to make it 2-0 Chicago and really put some juice into the arena.
The Kings, meanwhile, put just four shots on goal in the first period and switched up their defensive pairings to spark more offense. The biggest boon to L.A.'s offense, however, was the Blackhawks' power play - which has struggled mightily all postseason.
After Dustin Penner was sent to the penalty box for interference at 7:50 of the second, King cut Chicago's lead in half, 2-1, by slamming a shot through Crawford's pads at 9:28 of the period off a pass by Williams.
It was just the first time the Blackhawks have allowed a short-handed goal in the playoffs, but it wasn't the first time their power play killed their own momentum and transferred it to the other team. Chicago came into the game 11th in the NHL this postseason on the power play with a success rate of just 14.3 percent (7-for-49).
NOTES: Keith came into the game ranked fifth among all defensemen in the playoffs with 10 points and added to his total with the goal, giving him two goals and nine assists in this postseason. ... Kane, who's got goals in back-to-back games, hadn't scored in seven straight games before finding the back of the net in Game 4 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. ... Crawford came into the game leading the league in wins (11) and goals-against average (1.71) for the playoffs.