The Los Angeles Kings have tried their best in two consecutive games to put an end to the Blackhawks once and for all. Twice the Kings held third-period leads on the Blackhawks, and twice the Blackhawks overcame them and fought back to win. And with that, the Kings’ 3-1 series lead is no more, and the series will be decided back in Chicago.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews took a moment after his team’s 4-3 victory in Game 6 on Friday to admire what the Blackhawks have had to do to get back into the series.
“I think we know what kind of character we have in this room, what kind of group,” Toews said of the defending Stanley Cup champions. “I think we’re showing it to each other now. It’s pretty amazing to see. We know our job’s not done yet.”
The Blackhawks have gotten to where they are now by handling a large amount of adversity tossed their way in the past two games.
In Game 5, it was the Kings rallying from a two-goal deficit to take a 4-3 lead. The Blackhawks were down a goal to begin the third period, and Ben Smith scored within the first two minutes to tie the game. After a chaotic overtime, the Blackhawks pulled out a winner in the second extra period.
Ben Smith's second goal in two games gave the Hawks a lead at the second intermission.
In Game 6, the drama continued. The Kings went up 1-0 in the first period. The Blackhawks responded and took a 2-1 lead after two. The Kings answered by scoring two goals in just over two minutes to go ahead 3-2 less than eight minutes into the third.
Panic from the Blackhawks’ fan base could be read all over Twitter, but the players themselves resisted that feeling.
“You've just got to find a way to kind of ride those highs and keep that momentum and when things go against you -- I’ve said this quite a few times -- you forget about those tough moments and just don’t let it affect you too much,” Toews said. “Go out that next shift and keep playing.”
That they did. Duncan Keith took a pass from Patrick Kane in the deep slot and tied the game 3-3. Kane played the role of hero again by scoring the winner with 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining. Between and after those goals, Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford and his defense held strong to force Game 7 on Sunday night at the United Center.
“That’s the way the team has been all year,” Crawford said. “We don’t give up. We can definitely score goals. I don’t think anyone lost confidence or got down after those two goals they scored in the third. If anything, we kept pressing harder.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville never doubted his team’s resilience, but he was still impressed by it.
“Three lead changes in the third period, in a big game like that, it's pretty amazing,” Quenneville said. “But our guys, finding a way, it's a compliment to them. Well, top players. I mean, they want to win. They find ways. They challenge one another. You see certain guys competing like that every shift. I mean, you can't help but follow along and make your contribution.”