’Hawks force Game 7
Chicago 4 Los Angeles 3
LOS ANGELES — Patrick Kane skated to a patch of open ice near the painted Stanley Cup logo and fired a long, low shot at the Los Angeles net, hoping to hit an invisible hole.
His Chicago Blackhawks teammates weren’t shocked when he found it.
Kane’s career has been defined by his brilliance in the Blackhawks’ biggest moments, and his tiebreaking goal with 3:45 to play in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals will rank among the best.
Kane scored two goals and set up Duncan Keith’s tying score with 8:26 left, and the Blackhawks forced a decisive seventh game with a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.
After two straight elimination wins, the Blackhawks are heading home with a chance to advance.
Kane had one point in the series’ first four games before scoring seven more in Chicago’s consecutive elimination victories.
“It’s amazing what he can do in these big games when our season is on the line,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said about Kane. “Nobody else seems to be able to do it the same way he does. It’s pretty amazing.”
Game 7 is in Chicago on Sunday night. The winner gets the New York Rangers, who eliminated Montreal on Thursday night.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks avoided elimination for the second straight game in an already memorable playoff series between two NHL powers at the top of their games.
Both teams blew late leads in the third period, and Drew Doughty was primed to be Los Angeles’ hero with a tying goal and a tiebreaking assist on Alec Martinez’s score with 12:22 left. But after Kane took control, Corey Crawford came up with several late saves as Chicago hung on.
“We get the privilege of playing with a guy like that every day and seeing what he can do,” Keith said of Kane. “You know when it comes down to crunch time, him and Johnny (Toews), I don’t know if there are two other guys I’d rather have on my team.”
The conference finals rematch between the NHL’s last two champions will be decided in a winner-take-all Game 7 — the third of the post-season for the Kings, who are 6-0 in elimination games this spring.
Crawford made 26 saves and exchanged harsh words with counterpart Jonathan Quick as the Blackhawks won for the ninth time in their last 11 elimination games.
Chicago trailed 3-1 in the conference finals after its second straight loss at Staples Center on Monday, but the Blackhawks prolonged the series with an epic double-overtime victory in Game 5.
“I’m frustrated, but I’m over it pretty quickly,” said Quick, who made 21 saves. “And we’ve got another game to play, Game 7. We’ve had two chances to close out this series, and we are not going to blow a third one.”
Doughty played 26 minutes in another dynamic game for the Kings, who were less than nine minutes away from their second trip to the Stanley Cup finals in three years before Kane outdid Doughty.
Chicago led 2-1 entering the third after getting goals from Kane and Ben Smith early in the second period, and Staples Center echoed with worry until Doughty tied it with 14:28 left. The Kings’ dominant defenceman took the puck from the point into the slot and fired a wrist shot past a screened Corey Crawford for his third goal in four games.
Doughty then collected the puck during a power play and fed Martinez for a low shot through traffic, putting the Kings ahead 3-2 and setting off a deafening celebration.
But the Blackhawks pressed for a tying goal, and got it when Keith beat Quick with 8:26 left. With the crowd hushed again, Kane dangled and scored the winner.
Kane is a familiar nightmare for Kings fans: He won last season’s Conn Smythe Trophy largely because of his dominance against Los Angeles in the conference finals. But Kane was just one problem for Los Angeles’ normally solid defence, which gave up numerous scoring chances.
“I feel like I’m a broken record here, but we’ve got to be sharp in our own end,” Martinez said. “We weren’t making plays that we normally make. We’ve got to be quick to contact on them. We weren’t very sharp.”
Crawford exchanged contact and angry words with Quick after the second-period horn. Quick was angry after Chicago agitator Andrew Shaw ran into him, and the goalies then had a brief confrontation in front of Chicago’s bench. Crawford shook his glove and blocker at his waist, miming his willingness to fight Quick while a linesman separated them.
Dwight King scored an early goal for the Kings, who fell agonizingly short of their third Stanley Cup finals trip in franchise history.
NOTES: The Blackhawks went with seven defencemen for Game 6, dressing Sheldon Brookbank for the first time since May 13. Kris Versteeg and Peter Regin were scratched. ... King hadn’t scored a goal in Los Angeles’ last 10 games. ... Kings owner Phil Anschutz made a rare appearance at Staples Center. Prospective new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and point guard Chris Paul also attended the game.