LOS ANGELES – The Staples Center erupted as the Los Angeles Kings took the lead in the third period, seemingly headed to a victory and eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champions.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, there was no panic, no freaking out. There was also no deviating from their course. They liked how they were playing, save a gaffe or two, and knew they could pull it out.
A few minutes later, they did.
Duncan Keith scored the tying goal and Patrick Kane scored the game-winner about five minutes later as the Blackhawks beat the Kings 4-3 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Friday night. For the Blackhawks, it was a second consecutive come-from-behind victory. It was also another sign that, even in a critical situation, when all hell is breaking loose around them, they remain stoic.
““I don’t think anything motivates you like having your back against the wall, potentially walking into a game where your season might end. I think every single guy in this room thinks about that, lets it sink in a little bit and we realize how great this opportunity is,” said Jonathan Toews. “We worked very hard to get here and you don’t want to let it just slip away. We thought about that the last few days and worked very hard to get back in this series. We have a chance to stay alive and keep playing hockey for a little while longer.”
Indeed they do, and it goes back to their calm approach despite the deficit. We’ve talked a few times on how the Blackhawks have been here, done this before. Perhaps the core, being together as long as it has, keeps the whole group focused. Perhaps it’s just previous situations that remind them that there’s no need to lose control. Whatever it is, it works, and it worked again on Friday night.
“The message was let's keep playing the right way and the same way,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn't want to change much. They got a power play. Obviously the building was loud. We didn't want to change. We didn't want to go into an aggressive mode offensively where we get picked apart like a couple of games earlier.”
Again, it’s learning from past experiences, good and bad. Drew Doughty had tied the game at 2-2 after the Blackhawks struggled to gain possession in their own zone. The Kings got another one, a power-play goal, about two minutes later from Alec Martinez. Staples Center was raucous. It was bedlam.
The Blackhawks, as it turned out, were fine.
“I don’t think anyone lost confidence or got down after those two goals they scored in the third. If anything we kept pressing even harder,” said Corey Crawford, who stopped 26 of 29 shots, including some close ones down the stretch. “Some great shots by Duncs and Kaner, some great plays, and we were able to shut then down at the end.”
Closing out the Kings in Game 7 won’t be easy; the Kings have won two other Game 7s this postseason and both were on the road (San Jose and Anaheim). But nothing about this series has been easy. It’s been exciting, exhilarating and, as Quenneville said, it’s had a “wow factor.” There’s been little room to move or breathe. There’s been even less room to panic. The Blackhawks haven’t, and they’ll head home tomorrow with a chance to get to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final.
“I just think that we’ve got faith in ourselves. We’ve got good players that can put the puck in the net, we’ve done it all season long and we’ve done it in years past where we’ve been able to find ways,” Keith said. “We’ve got to give LA credit. It was a great game, but we know that they’ve played in Game 7s previous rounds and won both of them. So we know we’ve got our work cut out for us.”