In arguably one of the most exciting games of this NHL postseason, the Blackhawks staved off elimination thanks to a double overtime goal by Michal Handzus. The Kings may have come into the night in prime position, up 3-1 in the series, but they were unable to slam the door on the defending champs.
It certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort, though. Chicago stormed the ice early, taking a 2-0 lead just under four minutes into the game. Right away it appeared this series was heading back to L.A. for Game 6. However, as they’ve done all playoffs, the Kings stormed back just when you thought they were down and out. A 3-2 Blackhawks lead at the end of the first turned into a 4-3 deficit just one period later. What once looked like a Chicago victory soon turned into a last-ditch effort to stay alive.
After Ben Smith tied it for the Blackhawks early in the third, the game went goalless for quite some time, resulting in some extra hockey. That said, the lack of scoring hardly meant there were no fireworks. A back-and-forth battle ensued, with one team generating a quality chance before you could even recover from the other almost finishing off the game.
For Chicago, desperation was in high gear. A win wouldn’t put them on top in the series, but a loss would send them home for good. Every time a Kings shot went towards the net, the Blackhawks’ hopes of winning a second consecutive Cup looked like they were about to be dashed. Yet, Corey Crawford, who’s struggled mightily in this series, stood tall when his team needed him most.
Thanks to Crawford, as well as Handzus’ game-winner, the Blackhawks have dodged elimination for at least one night. They’re hardly out of the woods, but last night’s win was huge. Obviously, with a loss meaning the end of the season, the aforementioned statement is no shock. That said, they could’ve easily buckled when Los Angeles took the lead in the second. Crawford could’ve flubbed the puck on any of the Kings’ numerous scoring chances throughout the final frames of the game. This was no easy feat for Chicago, and no matter how many times it looked like they were done for, they still managed to pull off a clutch victory.
How this affects tomorrow’s Game 6 at the Staples Center is anyone’s guess. You can watch years of postseason hockey and still not have a clue as to how momentum from one game factors into the next. I’ve seen teams steal a desperation victory, only to fail at showing up the next time they take the ice. At the same time, there are plenty examples of a team being in control, losing an overtime heartbreaker and never recovering.
It’d be foolish to count the Kings out, but it’s just as naive to say Chicago doesn’t have enough to finish the rally. The Blackhawks could ride such a thrilling win all the way through this series and the next. L.A. may very well take in some home cooking and send Chicago packing. Your guess is as good as mine.
But therein lies the joy of playoff hockey, and for at least one more night, the Blackhawks get to enjoy the thrills.