The Chicago Blackhawks blew an early two goal lead on Wednesday night, but Michal Handzus saved the day as his goal in double overtime beat the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 5-4 in Game 5 of the best-of-seven series.
Ben Smith picked up the game-tying goal in the third period, and Johnny Oduya, Brandon Saad, and Brent Seabrook all picked up tallies for Chicago. Jarret Stoll, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, and Tanner Pearson all had goals for the Kings in the losing effort.
The Blackhawks came out of the gate looking to seize the early momentum, and they did just that when Drew Doughty was whistled for a tripping penalty, sending Chicago to the power play. After Jonathan Toews won the face-off, the Blackhawks moved the puck around the zone with ease, and eventually a pass found its way to Brent Seabrook at the point, and he blasted it past Jonathan Quick to give Chicago a 1-0 lead after just over a minute.
A few minutes later, the Chicago pressure contributed to a second goal. This time it was the team’s stretch passing that did the trick, as Johnny Oduya and Andrew Shaw pushed the puck up the ice to Patrick Kane. The winger brought the puck into the zone, paused near the blue line, and then fired a shot in that Quick stopped. Oduya was there to collect the rebound though, and when he slid it past Quick the Hawks had a two-goal advantage less than four minutes into the contest.
As the period neared its halfway point, the Kings started to get more chances on goal, and they finally converted after a mad netfront scramble. When Patrick Sharp’s clearing attempt was kept in front of the net by a quick stick from Dwight King, Jarret Stoll picked up the loose puck and fired it past Corey Crawford’s glove to narrow the Chicago lead to 2-1.
A little over a minute later, the Blackhawks responded with a goal of their own. After Brandon Saad forced a turnover at the blue line and Kane won a puck battle along the boards, Shaw put a shot on net. Quick was able to make the stop, but Saad got inside position and fired the rebound shot into the goal to make it a 3-1 game after just 11 minutes.
The Kings weren’t done scoring yet, as they scored just two minutes later to narrow the gap to one goal. After Quick made a tremendous save on a Toews one-timer in the Hawks’ zone, the Kings jumped out on a 3-on-1 rush that Marian Gaborik finished off on a nice feed from Anze Kopitar to make it a 3-2 game.
As the period drew to a close, Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent off after picking up a silly penalty as he threw Dustin Brown’s stick down the ice. Fortunately for Chicago, their goaltender was there to pick up the slack, making a couple of key saves on Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli to keep Chicago in front as the first period came to an end.
In the early stages of the period, both teams picked up some quality scoring chances. Saad nearly scored his second goal of the game from in close, but Quick somehow kept it out of the net as he used his glove to block the shot down. King also had a chance for Los Angeles, but Crawford kicked it out wide of the net. Michal Rozsival finished off the back and forth action with a great shot of his own from the slot, but Quick collected it without yielding a rebound.
After a failed power play that both Toews and Kane had great chances to score on, the Kings really started to press the issue. Eventually they tied things up at 3-3 when Kris Versteeg turned the puck over at the blue line, and Dustin Brown collected a rebound off a shot from Gaborik and pushed it home to knot things up.
Just a few moments later, the Kings scored again to take the lead. This time it was a neutral zone breakdown by the Blackhawks that led to the goal, as Tanner Pearson pushed through the defense and eventually fired in a shot that ricocheted off of Niklas Hjalmarsson's stick and into the top corner of the net to give Los Angeles a 4-3 lead.
The Kings threatened again late in the period, but they weren't able to score on a power play opportunity. Crawford once again came up big for the Blackhawks in the sequence, making some big saves to keep his team in the game despite being down by a goal after two periods.
As soon as the two teams hit the ice, the Blackhawks tried to grab control of the game, and they did exactly that. Saad had a huge rush up the ice that resulted in a shot on goal, but Quick kicked his leg pad out to make the save. Ben Smith got inside positioning on the rebound attempt however, and he pounded the puck into the net to knot things up at 4-4.
After that goal, both teams settled in and got some great chances. Carter had a shot on goal from in close that Crawford was able to stop, and even though Pearson collected the rebound Crawford was still able to keep the puck out of the net to keep the game tied. Saad and Smith also got great chances from in close, and Keith had a rebound chance, but they were all stopped by Quick.
In the late stages of the period, the Blackhawks got a power play thanks to a Stoll tripping penalty, but they weren't able to convert. Kane and Bickell had back-to-back chances from in close, but Quick was able to make both saves, helping keep the game tied as the two teams headed to overtime.
In the first overtime period, both teams kept the tempo mind-bogglingly high. Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger both had great chances from in close, but Quick was able to make the save. King also had a good chance at the other end for the Kings, but Crawford seemed dialed in as he made the save. Kopitar also blasted a shot that beat Crawford, but it rang off the post to keep the game tied up.
Overall in the period, the Kings outshot the Blackhawks by a 10-8 margin, but the score remained tied as the two teams headed into a Game 5 second overtime for the second year in a row.
As the second overtime got underway, the Blackhawks and Kings both seemed to be feeling each other out for a brief time, but it was Chicago that ultimately struck the critical blow. Handzus forced a turnover in the neutral zone, and when Saad attracted a ton of attention in the offensive end, he feathered a perfect saucer pass across to Handzus, and the big forward didn't miss as his backhanded shot beat Quick and gave the Blackhawks a critical victory.
Things won't get any easier for Chicago on Friday when they contest Game 6 against the Kings. The game will begin at 8pm Central time, and the game can be seen on NBCSN.