The Chicago Blackhawks were trailing 3-2 in the third period, but goals by Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane lifted the Hawks over the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 4-3 on Friday night, forcing a Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.
Ben Smith had a goal of his own, and Kane scored in the second period as the Hawks triumphed for the second consecutive game.
The game got off to a rousing start as the Blackhawks pushed the tempo early and often. Marian Hossa had a huge shot from in close that Jonathan Quick was able to shoulder aside, and then Slava Voynov made a beautiful diving poke check to prevent a shot on goal by Andrew Shaw on the doorstep. Finally Patrick Sharp had his first quality chance of the contest, but Quick made the save and prevented a rebound by shoving the puck into the corner.
After a few minutes, the Kings seemed to get their legs underneath them, and started racking up chances of their own. Dwight King had a partial breakaway after a defensive lapse by Chicago, but Brandon Saad was able to get back and force him into taking a bad shot. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson also picked up scoring chances, but both of their shots were denied by Corey Crawford.
The Blackhawks ended up getting a power play in the later stages of the period, but they weren’t able to get anything going. The Kings’ aggressive forecheck really slowed things down, and the Hawks were unable to get a single shot on goal during the sequence.
Seizing the momentum, the Kings once again established residency in the Blackhawks’ zone, and ultimately they were able to score the first goal of the game. With Brent Seabrook losing a foot race against Jarret Stoll behind the net, King skated freely through the slot and fired home a one-timer off a great feed to give the Kings a 1-0 lead with less than three minutes remaining in the first period.
The Kings got a couple more shots on goal in the closing stages of the period, but Crawford slammed the door to keep the advantage at just one goal after 20 minutes of play.
In the opening seconds of the second period, the Blackhawks got another power play, and this time they were able to convert to tie the game. After moving the puck around the zone and wearing the Kings' defense down, Jonathan Toews got the puck below the goal line and fed a perfect pass to Patrick Kane, who fired a one-timer into the net to tie things up at 1-1.
Just a few minutes later, the Blackhawks scored again to take the lead. After Sharp worked the puck up the ice to Ben Smith, the forward ended up below the goal line, but tossed a shot off of Quick's skate and into the net to put Chicago up by a score of 2-1.
The Blackhawks had another chance to add to their lead just a few minutes later when Marcus Kruger and Sharp came into the zone on a 2-on-0 rush, but Quick saved the day. Sharp's shot was barely deflected by Quick's glove and off the crossbar, keeping the Blackhawks' advantage at just one goal.
After that play, the Kings' offense seemed to start to re-assert itself, but a combination of quality defense and excellent goaltending kept Chicago in front. Niklas Hjalmarsson made a great play on a 3-on-2 rush to force Willie Mitchell to lose the puc, and then Crawford made a save off a weird carom from the boards. Finally, Crawford was forced to make two more saves on a mad netfront scramble by the Kings, stonewalling Marian Gaborik to keep his team ahead by a goal.
Late in the period, both teams had scoring chances that were denied by the respective goaltenders. First it was Crawford who made a save after Alec Martinez's wraparound attempt slid through the blue paint, and then Quick made a big save on Brandon Saad as he worked his way through the Kings' defense and fired in a shot on goal. The two goaltenders then butted heads as the period ended, but their teammates broke up the potential fracas as the Hawks entered the second intermission up a goal.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, their lead didn't last long as the third period got underway. After the Blackhawks couldn't clear the zone, Drew Doughty picked up the puck and blasted a shot that found its way past Crawford and into the net. Mike Richards created a brilliant screen in front, and in the blink of an eye the game was tied at 2-2.
Just a few moments later, Toews was sent to the penalty box, and the Kings scored again. This time Doughty made another great play, retrieving the puck near the blue line and feeding it over to Alec Martinez. The defenseman then pinched in a couple of steps and blasted a shot through Crawford's leg pads to put Los Angeles up 3-2.
With a newfound sense of urgency, the Blackhawks started pressing the accelerator again, and they were able to tie things up near the halfway mark of the period. Kane made a really smart play as he bought time along the boards, and when Duncan Keith pinched in from the point, Kane didn't miss on the pass, and Keith drilled a shot past Quick to tie things up at 3-3.
With about four minutes left in the period, the Blackhawks silenced the Staples Center crowd as they grabbed a 4-3 lead. Once again it was Kane doing the honors, circling the zone and drawing traffic out of the shooting lanes before uncorking a wrister that beat Quick and gave Chicago a lead that they would never relinquish.
The Blackhawks will look to complete their comeback on Sunday night when they welcome the Kings to the United Center for Game 7. The game begins at 7pm Central, and can be seen on NBCSN.