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updated: 5/29/2014 11:51 AM

Slumping Handzus has crowning moment

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  • Blackhawks center Michal Handzus scores the game-winning goal in double overtime Wednesday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at the United Center.

    Blackhawks center Michal Handzus scores the game-winning goal in double overtime Wednesday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at the United Center.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Handzus' game-winning goal


Michal Handzus is well aware what people have been saying about him this postseason.

He knows that when it comes to possible lineup changes for Joel Quenneville to ponder, his is one of the first names Blackhawks fans will rattle off.

The 37-year-old forward completely understands. After all, he entered Wednesday's game against Los Angeles having tallied just 2 points in 16 postseason games.

"I'm not real happy how I've played," Handzus admitted late Wednesday night. "But I've just got to be confident. It's a lot of fun to be playing in the playoffs.

"You cannot just look at yourself all the time and be down, be disappointed. You've just got to be positive. If you don't want be positive, then probably you won't get out of your slump."

Well, the man they call Zus came out of it in a big way in Game 5, taking a sweet feed from Brandon Saad between the circles and beating Jonathan Quick on a beautiful backhand, top-shelf shot to cap a thrilling 5-4 double overtime victory for the Blackhawks at the United Center.

"He handled it off his skate and made a great move," Saad said. "He's a leader out here and he does all the right things.

"It's nice to see him get rewarded."

Handzus' heroics cut the Kings lead in the Western Conference finals to 3-2 with Game 6 set for Friday night in Los Angeles.

"He's a warrior. He comes to play every night and does whatever he can to be in the lineup whether he's injured or not," Patrick Kane said of Handzus. "We saw that last year with the amount of injuries he had and always brought something every night and had some huge goals in last year's playoffs.

"We know he's capable of scoring those big goals, and probably none bigger than the one tonight.

"With the game on the line, I saw it go to him and I know he has a great backhand, so it was a great shot by him. I'm sure he's happy about that one as well as for the team."

That would be true.

"It was a great game," Handzus said. "Obviously a lot of emotion. You know, we put everything on the line."

Did the Blackhawks ever, going toe-to-toe against the tenacious Kings through regulation, overtime and even a second OT session before Handzus' heroics.

Kane, playing alongside Andrew Shaw and Saad on the second line, wasn't so shabby himself, finishing the night with 4 assists and a plus-3 rating.

He provided a huge spark early on by assisting on goals by Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Saad as the Hawks jumped out to a 3-1 lead midway through the first period.

"He steps up; big players step up in big games," Saad said of No. 88. "He sees the ice well and makes great plays."

Saad had a pretty solid evening himself Wednesday, ending the night with a goal, 2 assists and a plus-4 rating.

"We wanted to leave it all on the ice," said Saad, adding the message heading into overtime was pretty basic. "We just didn't want our season to end now."

But by the time the first 20 minutes were over, however, the Kings had cut the Hawks' lead to 1 thanks to Marian Gaborik's 11th goal of the playoffs.

The Kings were just getting started. On goals by Dustin Brown and Tanner Pearson, they stunned the standing-room only crowd at the UC by taking a 4-3 lead heading into the third period.

But Ben Smith, on a pure hustle play early in the third, banged in the game-tying goal to send the UC into a frenzy.

It never settled down from there. Not in a back-and-forth first OT session or early in the second extra frame until Handzus' game-winner.

"The whole game was some pretty good hockey, probably the highest pace we've seen all year," said Hawks goalie Corey Crawford, who turned away 40 shots. "Overtime was crazy, too.

"It was loud in here. Probably the loudest it's been all year. It was a fun hockey game to play in, and even more fun to win."

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