In an improbable win while missing one of their best players, the Chicago Blackhawks knocked off the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 3-2 on Thursday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
Marian Hossa scored the game winning goal early in the third period, and Corey Crawford made 19 saves as the Hawks moved to within one victory of their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in four years.
We’ll have plenty of coverage in the days to come on Madhouse Enforcer, but for now, here are Thursday’s Three Stars:
Third Star: Michal Handzus
Handzus has been huge for the Blackhawks as of late, and he came up big once again in Game 4.
In the third period of the game, it was Handzus who ended up jumping up on a rush along with linemate Hossa, and when Handzus feathered a beautiful pass onto Hossa’s stick, the veteran sniper didn’t miss, and he gave the Hawks their winning margin.
Handzus also came up huge on a late penalty kill for the Hawks, With ace penalty killer Michael Frolik in the box, Handzus came out with Marcus Kruger, and ended up with a key shot block and did a great job of jumping passing lanes as the Kings couldn’t get anything going.
Second Star: Patrick Kane
He’ll get chastised a bit for “stealing” a goal from Bryan Bickell in the second period, but the play was indicative of how well Kane responded after being switched back to the top line by head coach Joel Quenneville.
He ended up scoring because of some great netfront pressure that he put on Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick, and then continued that strong play in the third period. He had a great chance that Quick stonewalled about seven minutes in, but needless to say, it was great to see Kane re-engage in the way he did on Thursday.
First Star: Bryan Bickell
Bickell may have had a goal stolen by Kane, but the rest of his performance earns him top star honors once again for the Hawks. Bickell scored the game tying goal with about six minutes left in the first period on a great wrist shot from the near face-off dot, and he had an equally excellent play late in the second period.
Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (who barely missed out on a star spot) had a great keep on a play in the offensive zone, and when he fired a shot towards the net, it was Bickell who not only screened Quick, but also deflected the puck and nearly put it in the net. Kane pushed it across the line, but it was Bickell’s effort that made it happen.