Hat-Trick Hero: Kane sends Hawks back to Cup Final

Hat-Trick Hero: Kane sends Hawks back to Cup Final
June 8, 2013, 11:00 pm
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Hawks-Kings Game 5

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Patrick Kane was hearing all about his slump.

Chicago Blackhawks fans wanted more. His coaches wanted more. Heck, he wanted more.

And Saturday night, he gave more than enough.

Kane tallied a hat trick, including the game-winning goal in double overtime, as the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings, 4-3, to clinch the Western Conference crown. The Blackhawks eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champions in five games and are headed to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time since 2010.

[WATCH: Blackhawks relieved not to go back to Los Angeles

Duncan Keith, who was suspended for Game 4, scored the Blackhawks’ opening goal and logged 40 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time. Corey Crawford stopped 33 of 36 shots, including 13 over the two overtimes. Jonathan Toews had two assists, as did Bryan Bickell.

For Kane, it was probably a big exhale moment after struggling through a good chunk of this postseason. For head coach Joel Quenneville, who said the Blackhawks needed more from Kane, this fit the bill.

“That was more than more,” Quenneville said. “It was certainly an outstanding game by him. It was a great play by [Toews] and winning goal [by Kane]. I thought Kaner played a heck of a game in Games 4 and 5 for us, and led with having the puck a lot. The time of possession was very high end.”

[MORE: Boston's momentum should set up for a great series

So was the shot that ended it all. Toews and Kane went on a 2-on-1, with Toews passing to Kane, who sent a laser past Jonathan Quick for the clincher. For Kane, just getting through to the Stanley Cup Final was reward enough.

“It's nice to win, first and foremost. To contribute the last couple games, I think any player would be lying to you if they said it isn't nice,” Kane said. “For us to hang in there in the first overtime and pull it out in the second overtime was huge. We definitely didn't want to go back to L.A. It was just a huge win to get us to the Final.”

And it almost didn’t happen tonight. The Blackhawks were 10 seconds away from clinching the West, on the strength of a Kane goal with 3:52 remaining in regulation. But the Kings were going to go down swinging and, apparently, scoring dramatic goals. Mike Richards, who missed the last three games with a concussion, deflected an Anze Kopitar shot off his body and past Crawford to tie the game at 3 with 9.4 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Blackhawks were staggered; they were stunned. But they just thought back to Game 7 against Detroit, another game where they went to overtime unexpectedly and drew that same attitude out of it.

“Yeah, that's a tough feeling. I honestly don't think there's a worse feeling in hockey, when you’re nine seconds away,” Toews said. “We just tried to tell each other in the locker room that we can't be thinking about what could have been. We have to just turn the page, get over it. It's the only way you're going to move on and win the game.”

The overtime(s) were what postseason overtimes usually are: riveting, crazy, intense and edge-of-your-seat enjoyable -- for everyone but the players, most likely. But Kane’s goal clinched it, setting off one happy pandemonium at the United Center.

[WATCH: Blackhawks played their game

“It was crazy, it was exciting and just maybe a little bit of relief,” said Crawford. “That was a great goal, a great pass and an even better shot. It’s just another hurdle for us; we’ve been through so much already. To go through double OT and win like that is just crazy.”

The Blackhawks have punched their ticket back to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s been a bumpy road in between, with two first-round losses, questions about goaltending and a lockout taking away the first part of the 2012-13 season. But the Blackhawks made it. Now to finish it.

“We have the ability, the talent, but most of all we're hungry to get back to where we were in 2010. We have a great opportunity to do it,” Toews said. “We definitely went through some tough times and some trials. That's all part of it. Not everything is going to go your way whenever you want it to. Like Duncs said, this opportunity doesn't come too often. I think we all realize that this time around. We're ready to take advantage of it.”