The Los Angeles Kings were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in double overtime on Saturday night as the Chicago Blackhawks, beneficiaries of a late goal by winger Patrick Kane, defeated LA by a score of 4-3.
The start of the game for the Kings looked eerily similar to the third period of their Game 4 loss. The Blackhawks thoroughly dominated possession, peppered Jonathan Quick with shots, and ended up racking up two goals before the Kings even managed a shot on net. Duncan Keith fired a slapshot from the point that somehow snuck between Quick’s leg pads, and Patrick Kane had a gorgeous top-shelf wrister that came after Quick lost sight of the puck near his crease.
By the time the period ended, the Kings only had four shots on goal. When you add in the two that they had in the third period Thursday, they have a combined SIX shots in 40 minutes of play.
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Needless to say, head coach Darryl Sutter must have ripped his players a new one in the intermission, because they came out firing in the second period.
The Kings finally started to disrupt the Hawks’ offense in that frame, and had several periods of lengthy possession in the Chicago zone, but it was a shorthanded goal that brought the Kings to within one, as Dwight King tossed a pass off the boards to a rushing Justin Williams. King then pounded home the rebound, and the crazy play seemed to light an even hotter fire under the Kings’ collective backsides.
Even Quick got into the action after that play, stopping Hawks forward Marian Hossa on a breakaway shortly afterwards to keep the Kings in the game. LA kept pounding away, and came within mere inches of tying the game in the dying seconds of the frame when Anze Kopitar’s shot was stopped by Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford, with the puck floating barely over the crossbar as time wound down.
The Kings got a huge break in the early stages of the third period, as Hawks defenseman Johnny Oduya barely missed an easy tally that would have given Chicago a 3-1 lead thanks to a quick flick of the blocker by Quick. Right after that play, Hawks forward Bryan Bickell committed a silly boarding penalty, and Anze Kopitar made him pay with a power play goal to tie the game at 2-2.
That power play in particular was a much better one for the Kings, as their first one of the contest resulted in zero shots. On the second man-advantage, LA actually got some sustained pressure, and they were rewarded with the tying tally.
The two teams traded chances after that goal, with the Hawks failing to capitalize on a power play they got when Matt Greene crosschecked Andrew Shaw up high in a goalfront scramble. The Kings did a much better job of interrupting passing lanes and blocking shots on that penalty kill than they have at other times in the series, and they really helped Quick out on it.
Unfortunately for the Kings, the Hawks kept pressing, and it finally paid off with a little less than four minutes left. Kane scored his second goal of the contest after Bickell got away with a trip behind the net, and the Hawks took a 3-2 lead late in the third period.
The play elicited a rare display of anger from the Kings, who were livid that nothing was called when Williams was tripped behind the net. Nothing came of their protests, however, and the suddenly deflated Kings had to try to get their minds back in order.
Get back in order they did too. With just seconds remaining, the Kings won an offensive zone faceoff and pushed the puck to the point, where Slava Voynov fired it to Kopitar along the boards. He fired off a shot, and Mike Richards tipped it past Crawford to tie the game up and send it to overtime.
The Kings' momentum carried on to overtime, as they held the Hawks without a shot on goal for the first half of the first overtime period. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on their stellar defense, and they went through the whole period without scoring a goal on their 11 shots.
In the second overtime, it seemed as though the Kings' finally tired out, and the Hawks took full advantage. On a 2-on-1 rush, Hawks captain Jonathan Toews found a wide open Kane in the slot, who fired the puck over Quick to end the game and give the Hawks' their second Western Conference championship in four years.
For the Kings, it ends a grueling title defense that saw them take two series victories despite being physically and mentally punished throughout the postseason. For now, they will head back to LA and begin to make plans for next season, but it was a great run that they went on in these playoffs.