Tonight's game was an instant classic. Does that take any of the sting out of the Los Angeles Kings' loss?
Does the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks were always going to be a tough out make the loss better?
How about the fact that the Kings are still up 3-2? Actually, yeah, that one helps. To the recap!
If anyone thought this series might suddenly become a defensive struggle, five first period goals very quickly took care of that notion. A quick Drew Doughty tripping penalty (helped along by Jonathan Toews, once again reminding us that every team embellishes) resulted in a power play goal 1:13 in, as Brent Seabrook scored from the high slot to give Chicago a quick lead. Patrick Kane got one of the assists on that goal, matching his point total from the rest of the series, and his new line helped the Blackhawks get right back on the board two minutes later. Kane brought the puck from his own end, waited for the crowd to get to the front, and took the shot. Jonathan Quick gave up the rebound, and Oduya beat Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, and Jeff Carter to said rebound. 2-0.
The Kings needed to get one back, and they did when Jarret Stoll finished off a net-mouth scramble at the midpoint of the period. (Dwight King got the assist; King played well enough to get shifts with Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar at various points, and though most of his game was holding the puck along the boards and getting it through the neutral zone, he did it well!) Chicago got the goal back 1:17 later, as Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw once again teamed up with Kane. Kane forced a Willie Mitchell turnover, Shaw got the initial shot, Saad scored on the rebound. Quick's game improved considerably after the third goal, but that rebound control would come back to bite him one more time.
To Quick's credit, he came up with a crucial save on Toews two minutes later, which led directly to Anze Kopitar starting an odd-man rush the other way. Dustin Brown carried the puck in and set up Marian Gaborik for an open shot, and Gaborik scores when he gets open shots. The Kings finally started being the better team after Gaborik's goal, but the score remained 3-2 into intermission, and through over half of the second period. Each team had chances, though; Quick stopped Saad from inside his own net, while Brent Seabrook blocked Justin Williams on a 2-on-1.
After a couple unsuccessful power plays, the Kings made it 3-3. Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik prevented a Chicago clear, and after Brown and Gaborik were each stopped by Corey Crawford, Brown tapped in the loose puck while falling down. Two minutes later, Tanner Pearson scored on a wrist shot that was either (a) perfect or (b) flailed at sadly by Crawford. LA controlled the rest of the period but couldn't find a fifth goal. That proved costly when Saad's shot early in the third produced the biggest rebound of the game, and Ben Smith converted.
Chicago had the better of the third period chances, but both teams finally showed some discipline, and excellent backchecking and solid goaltending kept both teams scoreless in the final eighteen minutes. Jarret Stoll went to the box late to give the Hawks a golden chance, but Quick robbed Toews and Bryan Bickell in close to send the game to overtime. What followed was probably the most entertaining period of the playoffs, as the two teams completed 20 minutes of OT in just 26 minutes of real time. I wish I could tell you more about it, but it was kind of a blur. Just know that both goalies were good, and the defensemen were... less good. Anze Kopitar had the best opportunity, but his shot hit the post after beating Crawford. That close to ending the series, right there.
Instead old friend Michal Handzus ended the game 2:04 into the second overtime. (click below to view Steph's GIF)
The fourth (Richards) line and the second (Voynov-Mitchell) pairing were out for the winner, and as Robert pointed out, they were the likeliest players to find themselves on the wrong end of things. You can probably blame Trevor Lewis for missing the assignment, though I'll still spend the next two days wondering how the slowest guy on the ice got into that position. It's too late now, and the Kings face a game on Friday which they'll (still) be favored to win. Time to buckle down.