It's not often you hear Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville go off script when talking about his team or a recent game.
Usually you can expect a number of responses peppered with "we'll see," or "process" or "commend" from the veteran coach.
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That's why it was telling late Saturday night in the words Quenneville used to describe the Blackhawks' thrilling 4-3 double-overtime victory over Los Angeles, a win which punched the Hawks' ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.
"That was an amazing hockey game," Quenneville said. "It was one of those games, very nerve-wracking from the fans' point of view, exciting at our bench level, but definitely had some highs and lows.
"I don't think you can have that gap any wider than was out there tonight."
If you're a Blackhawks fan, by now you've probably discussed Saturday night's epic Game 5 showdown with your friends, listened to all the call-in shows and read anything you could get your hands on about everything concerning this one.
But this clash was so good -- yeah, that good -- that we thought it would be fitting to recap the 90-minute doozy in the words of those who were involved -- the players and coaches.
Drawing first blood:
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith takes an already revved-up house up yet another notch when he blasts one from just inside the blue line past Jonathan Quick at 3:42 of the first period to open the scoring.
Keith: "I didn't even see it go in, to be honest with you. When you see the light, hear the fans -- obviously it's a good feeling. It gives us that momentum right away."
First of three:
Just over two minutes after Keith's goal, Patrick Kane scoops up a loose puck in front of the net, patiently skates away from traffic and fires into a wide-open net for the first of his 3 goals on a magical night for No. 88. His coach had asked for more out of Kane, and on Saturday night he got it.
Quenneville: "That was more than more. It was certainly an outstanding game by him. I thought Kaner played a heck of a game in both Games 4 and 5."
The comeback Kings:
Grabbing a 2-0 lead six minutes into the game ought to provide a level of comfort for the Hawks, right?
The never-say-die Kings begin chipping away midway through the second period when Dwight King scores a short-handed goal. Then, while on the power play early in the third, Anze Kopitar beats Corey Crawford and suddenly it's 2-2 and game on.
Quenneville: "I don't know if letdown is the word. They got the Cup for all the right reasons. They're one of the teams that are going to keep coming at you. Losing a shorthanded one, you're going to lose some momentum. Then penalty killing ... now it's a hockey game."
Highest of highs, lowest of lows:
After 12 minutes of back and forth, Kane -- on a sweet feed from Bryan Bickell -- beats Quick again to break the tie. Some observers (OK, me) think the next 3½ minutes are as loud as the UC has been in years as the Countdown to the Cup Finals commences.
With 9.4 seconds left in regulation all the air goes out of the place when Mike Richards deflects a Kopitar shot past Crawford to tie the game and send it to OT.
Richards: "Very exciting."
Crawford: "Man, nine seconds left and they score. We've been through so much so far in the playoffs and we've been able to play our game after something like that happens. That was just another step for us."
Jonathan Toews: "Yeah, that's a tough feeling. I honestly don't think there's a worse feeling in hockey, when your nine seconds away. You know you have to get the puck out. Two little bounces go against you and the next thing you know it's in your net. Your heart sinks pretty quick."
Quenneville: "I think we had the approach when we left the bench, you know, it was almost like, 'Wow! Going in the locker room, be positive, find a way.' But they certainly came at us in the overtime."
The Kings have control but the Hawks have Crawford, so after 20 extra minutes it's still a stalemate.
Toews: "You know, they came at us hard in the first overtime period, maybe had most of the puck possession in our zone. But we stuck with it. We had great goaltending. We know when we get to overtime it's just one chance, that's all we need -- one lucky bounce that's going to go in."
Kane: "For us to hang in there the first overtime was huge."
It's more of the same in the second extra frame, two exhausted heavyweights slugging it out. Then, at the 11:40 mark, Kane takes a feed from Toews on a 2-on-1 and caps off his spectacular night in spectacular fashion.
Quenneville: "Yeah, he stepped up. He took on the responsibility of leading the team. He's proven he's a top player in the game. Nice to see him finish it off in a real positive way for us."
Kane: "It was tough. We were laughing about it after the game. If you watch the bench after we score to win the game, it almost seems like it was just another goal because no one could celebrate because we were all so tired."
Toews: "Here we are. We're feeling pretty good. We're going back in the Stanley Cup Finals. We're pretty excited about that."