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updated: 5/31/2014 12:20 AM

Kane, Blackhawks leave Kings searching for answers

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  • Video: Kane threads game-winning goal

  • It was another big night for Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, here blocking a shot by the Kings' Marian Gaborik during the second period of the Hawks' 4-3 Game 6 victory.

      It was another big night for Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, here blocking a shot by the Kings' Marian Gaborik during the second period of the Hawks' 4-3 Game 6 victory.
    Associated Press

 
 

We're way past the "why," not that the Blackhawks can answer that question.

We're certainly into the "how," though the Hawks would rather not discuss it anyway.

That leaves Chicago with the "who," and Friday night in Los Angeles it was Corey Crawford standing on his head and Patrick Kane saving the season with two monster plays in the third period.

The Hawks lived to fight yet another day after a 4-3 victory over the Kings at the Staples Center tied the Western Conference finals at 3-3 and sent the two teams scurrying back to Chicago for a Game 7 on Sunday night.

The "why" is what remains inexplicable, the Hawks' mind-numbing need to dig a canyon for themselves before mounting the heroic climb out, usually against overwhelming odds.

What remains indefinable, and yet somehow predictable, is the character and heart of a group that simply doesn't want to go home until the last game of the season is concluded.

"We just wanted an opportunity to keep playing hockey," said captain Jonathan Toews. "Now we have another chance."

The Hawks have more than that. They have their swagger back after playing their best game of the playoffs. From start to finish they played with the kind of desperation necessary to beat really good teams in the postseason.

"I feel like we played our best game tonight," Toews said. "We're gonna have to bring that again Sunday."

The Hawks are now a stunning 13-0 in Games 5-7 of a playoff series the last two years, and 9-2 when facing elimination in the last four postseasons.

And Friday night it was quite the demonstration of what the Stanley Cup champs can do when they want to be the best team in hockey.

Crawford was great. The penalty kill was good. The power play arrived. The forecheck was outstanding. The defense was smart. The energy was high.

And then Patrick Kane was Patrick Kane. He answered two brilliant plays by Drew Doughty, which gave the Kings a 3-2 lead in the third, with two of his own.

The Hawks deserved better than to be down at that point with their season ticking away, but once again the Hawks dug deep and found a way to survive.

"We have our confidence back, and when you feel like that you don't worry about a little adversity," Toews said of facing elimination with only 12 minutes left in the season. "It never feels good to be down, but we didn't stop. It's nice to see that resiliency."

Even Joel Quenneville chipped in Friday by finally benching Kris Versteeg, adding Sheldon Brookbank to the lineup instead.

And for the first time all series, the Hawks decided to play in the Los Angeles end, the defense aggressive and understanding that any time spent in the Kings' zone meant less time to get battered in their own zone.

The Hawks took a 2-1 lead in the second on goals by Kane and Ben Smith, but the Kings came out flying in the third and scored twice in 2:06 to take a 3-2 lead, and the season was once again on the brink.

"We were fine on the bench," Smith said. "We said just stick with it. We knew we'd find a way to get one. We were playing a good game."

With less than nine minutes remaining, Brandon Saad made a brilliant play to keep the puck alive for Andrew Shaw. He got it to Kane, who made a beautiful backhand pass to Duncan Keith, and he beat Jonathan Quick shortside to tie the game at 3-3 with only 8:26 to play.

The same line, which has 14 points the last two games, then cashed in again when Saad found Kane and let him work his magic.

Kane carried up the half-wall and all the way out to the blue line, where he danced until he found room, fired from long distance and with bodies all over Quick, found the back of the net for the game-winner at 16:15.

From there, it was a fire drill, but Crawford stood tall.

"I have confidence in our guys to come back and score," Crawford said. "Just have to stick with the plan."

Since the start of the third period in Game 5, Crawford has been the same guy who led the Hawks to a Cup a year ago.

"We need to give him more help," Toews said. "But he was great again for us."

It was stunning effort from the Hawks, considering how inconsistent their energy has been throughout this postseason, but it was a display once again of what the Hawks can do with a little belief.

They got that back with an overtime win in Game 5 and they brought everything they had in Game 6.

If the Hawks play like that again Sunday, they can schedule a date with the Rangers -- and start thinking again about a dance with the Cup.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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