Brandon Saad has been one of the Blackhawks' best players in the Western Conference finals, but his virtuoso performance Wednesday night in Game 5 was on an entirely different level.
Playing left wing on a line with Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw, the 21-year old Saad steadily took the game over in an exhilarating 5-4 double overtime victory that allowed the Hawks to play another day.
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The win forced Game 6 on Friday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Saad had a lot to do with it. After scoring his third goal of the series midway through the first period, he assisted on the Hawks' last 2 goals by Ben Smith (to tie it in the third) and Michal Handzus (to win it at 2:04 of the second overtime).
"I feel that was one of the best games I ever played on one of the biggest stages," Saad said Thursday, prior to leaving for Los Angeles. "It was nice to help the team win in an elimination game. I'm looking forward to going forward."
So are the Blackhawks.
"He was amazing last night," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought he's had some games like that over the course of the season, where he takes it to a different level. Throughout the league, not too many guys can make an impact on a game like he did last night."
Shaw, Kruger 'good to go':
Andrew Shaw went down in a heap with 3:03 left in the third period of Game 5, after delivering a hit to the Kings' Jake Muzzin. It looked like his right knee may have buckled slightly, but Shaw stayed in the game and is expected to play Friday night.
"He's good to go," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He was real good for us all game. He came back."
Marcus Kruger also finished the game after Muzzin caught him with a big hit in front of the Blackhawks bench with about six minutes left in regulation. The hit was clean and Quenneville said it wasn't as damaging as it might have looked.
"(Kruger) takes some tough hits," Quenneville said. "Last night, it looked like he probably got crushed or killed, but it wasn't that bad. It was right in front of us. I got to see it."
More lineup changes?
Kris Versteeg couldn't get the puck out of the Hawks' zone seconds before Dustin Brown tied the game 3-3 at 11:08 of the second, and he sat on the bench the rest of the game. When asked about Versteeg on Thursday, Quenneville said lineup changes could be coming for Game 6.
"It was a tough night, the one shift particularly," he said of Versteeg. "(He's) just got to battle through it. It's a competitive game. Not a lot of time, not a lot of space. You got to do whatever you can to advance the puck and contribute."