The Chicago Blackhawks coughed up an early lead, but Michal Handzus saved the day when his goal in the second overtime period lifted the defending champions over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.
Ben Smith scored the game-tying goal in the third period, and Brandon Saad, Brent Seabrook, and Johnny Oduya also scored for Chicago. Jarret Stoll, Marian Gaborik, Dustin Brown, and Tanner Pearson all had goals for the Kings in the losing effort.
The Blackhawks came out of the gate looking to seize the early momentum, and they did just that when Drew Doughty was whistled for a tripping penalty, sending Chicago to the power play. After Jonathan Toews won the face-off, the Blackhawks moved the puck around the zone with ease, and eventually a pass found its way to Brent Seabrook at the point, and he blasted it past Jonathan Quick to give Chicago a 1-0 lead after just over a minute.
A few minutes later, the Chicago pressure contributed to a second goal. This time it was the team’s stretch passing that did the trick, as Johnny Oduya and Andrew Shaw pushed the puck up the ice to Patrick Kane. The winger brought the puck into the zone, paused near the blue line, and then fired a shot in that Quick stopped. Oduya was there to collect the rebound though, and when he slid it past Quick the Hawks had a two-goal advantage less than four minutes into the contest.
As the period neared its halfway point, the Kings started to get more chances on goal, and they finally converted after a mad netfront scramble. When Patrick Sharp’s clearing attempt was kept in front of the net by a quick stick from Dwight King, Jarret Stoll picked up the loose puck and fired it past Corey Crawford’s glove to narrow the Chicago lead to 2-1.
A little over a minute later, the Blackhawks responded with a goal of their own. After Brandon Saad forced a turnover at the blue line and Kane won a puck battle along the boards, Shaw put a shot on net. Quick was able to make the stop, but Saad got inside position and fired the rebound shot into the goal to make it a 3-1 game after just 11 minutes.
The Kings weren’t done scoring yet, as they scored just two minutes later to narrow the gap to one goal. After Quick made a tremendous save on a Toews one-timer in the Hawks’ zone, the Kings jumped out on a 3-on-1 rush that Marian Gaborik finished off on a nice feed from Anze Kopitar to make it a 3-2 game.
As the period drew to a close, Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent off after picking up a silly penalty as he threw Dustin Brown’s stick down the ice. Fortunately for Chicago, their goaltender was there to pick up the slack, making a couple of key saves on Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli to keep Chicago in front as the first period came to an end.
When the second period got started, both teams got off to roaring starts. The Kings had a 2-on-1 rush early on after a bad turnover by Kris Versteeg, but Brent Seabrook made a diving stop as he blocked a shot over the glass. Jeff Carter also had a chance after Kane turned the puck over, but Crawford stood tall as he made his best save of the game.
The Blackhawks got a power play chance about eight minutes into the period, but unlike their first period opportunity they couldn't take advantage. Both Kane and Toews whiffed on shots in the early going, and the second unit couldn't force the puck into the zone, killing off the power play and giving the Kings a boost.
Versteeg continued his poor play on a turnover at the defensive blue line, and the Kings tied things up. Gaborik drove through traffic near the net and put a shot on goal, but after Crawford made the save Dustin Brown was there to pot the rebound as the game was knotted up at 3-3.
Just a few moments later, the Kings scored again. This time it was Tanner Pearson doing the honors, working his way through the offensive zone and firing a shot that ricocheted off of Hjalmarsson's stick and into the top left corner of the cage as the Kings grabbed a 4-3 advantage.
The Kings had another chance to extend their lead late in the period when Oduya was sent off for hooking Jeff Carter, but the Hawks were able to keep the game within reach. Crawford made a couple of big saves in the sequence, and even though his blue liners didn't clear traffic out from in front of the net, he kept the score at 4-3 as the period came to an end.
Early on in the third period, the Blackhawks aggressively came out of the gate looking to tie things up, and they did just that a little over a minute into the frame. Saad carried the puck across the blue line, and fired a low, hard shot at Quick. The Kings goaltender kicked out his left pad to make the save, but Ben Smith was there to collect the rebound and pounded it home to send the United Center crowd into a frenzy.
After that goal, the pace opened up once again, and both teams got a huge number of quality chances. Carter and Saad each had big shots on goal, but the goaltenders came to play in a big way. Crawford snared down another Carter shot a few minutes later, and Pearson was also robbed on an in close chance. Keith also had a rebound opportunity at the other end, but Quick made the save to keep the game tied.
The two teams exchanged penalties midway through the third period, with Saad negating a Hawks power play when he was whistled for goaltender interference. Alec Martinez had the best shot on goal out of the two sides in the ensuing 4-on-4 sequence, but Crawford calmly made the save.
With three minutes remaining in the game, the Blackhawks got a power play when Mitchell flipped a puck over the glass. Despite chances from Kane and Bickell, Chicago couldn't grab the late lead as Quick made some key saves. Crawford responded with a few great saves of his own in the waning seconds, and when the horn sounded the two teams headed to overtime knotted at 4-4.
In the first overtime period, both teams picked up some really high quality chances, but neither side could convert. Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger each had great opportunities from in close, but Quick made a couple of key saves. For the Kings, King had a shot that Crawford was able to stop, and Gaborik and Carter teamed up for a few more. Finally, Kopitar rifled a shot off the post but it wouldn't go, keeping the game tied after the first overtime.
As the second period got underway, the Blackhawks seemed to be reeling a bit as the Kings pushed the tempo, but it was Chicago that ultimately got the game-winner. When Michal Handzus forced a turnover in the neutral zone, Saad carried the puck across the blue line. When the Kings collapsed in on him, he dished a pass to Handzus, who flipped a backhanded shot past Quick to give Chicago the 5-4 victory.
The Blackhawks will have to win again on Friday night to extend the series as the scene shifts back to Los Angeles. The puck will drop at 6pm Pacific time, and the game can be seen on NBCSN.