Blackhawks show heart, show Kings what made of

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville questioned his team’s effort after Game 3.

But no one can wonder about the Hawks’ heart after what they accomplished in Game 4.

Playing without their best defenseman, Duncan Keith, who’s also been their best player the last two weeks, the Hawks merely came from behind twice, took the lead in the third period and then put away Los Angeles, handing the defending champs a 3-2 defeat, their first at the Staples Center since March 23.

The Hawks are flying back to Chicago with a commanding 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals and a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday night at home.

Not only did the Hawks overcome the loss of Keith, but they played a dominating third period after scoring only 70 seconds in to take the lead. The home team managed almost nothing of consequence in the Hawks’ end — only 2 shots on goal — and it was almost certainly the Hawks’ most impressive period of the playoffs.

“It took a big effort,” Quenneville said. “You miss a guy who plays the most minutes for you. That’s certainly a big void to fill.”

The Hawks took their first lead of the night when they caught the Kings in a bad line change and Michal Handzus hit Marian Hossa on a one-timer for a brilliant goal and 3-2 Chicago advantage at 1:10 of the third.

And somehow without Keith, the Hawks played a smothering team defense from end to end in the third and Los Angeles never really threatened to tie the game. It was total supremacy by the Hawks and had to be shocking for a Kings team that is accustomed to imposing its will on others.

“Once they scored the quick goal, we tried to stretch it out and that doesn’t work very well against them,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “They did a good job defending the lead.”

So for all of the moments during this playoff run when you wondered what the Hawks were made of, they displayed an urgency and desire Thursday that reminded their coach of why they were the No. 1 seed coming into the tournament.

“We were very disappointed with the last game,” Quenneville said. “We came in here and played a good game. We played the right way and played the way we have to play to be successful.”

After taking a bad penalty 12:39 into the second, and then suffering a couple of big hits, Patrick Kane finally joined his teammates in the conference finals late in the second period.

Just two days after his coach called him out for essentially being soft and refusing to take a hit to make a play, Kane — who had been invisible — got involved.

Maybe it was Quenneville’s move to put Kane on a line with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell, maybe it was the embarrassment or maybe it was getting some sense knocked into him, but Kane suddenly fought for a loose puck behind the net and passed it through Toews to Niklas Hjalmarsson, who fired it into a Bickell screen.

As the puck was already rolling in the net, Kane knocked it over the line and got credit for the goal as the Hawks tied it at 2-2 with about two minutes left in the second period.

“I told (Bickell) I was sorry I stole it from him,” Kane said. “It might have went in.”

Either way, it was a huge goal.

“I think the biggest thing was just trying to get the puck any way I could, skate with it, feel into the game, no matter how that was,” Kane said. “I thought I did a good job of that. You to start skating with it and moving it.

“It’s a big part of our game. If we play as a five-man unit and come up the ice with speed, you see how successful we can be.”

Maybe that’s the cheap one that gets him going, but the Hawks will need Kane going forward, just as they’ll need Keith. It was a tough night for his replacement, Sheldon Brookbank, who was on the ice for both Los Angeles goals.

In Keith’s absence, Hjalmarsson was absolutely brilliant and he saved the Hawks in Game 4, but there’s little doubt the Hawks will look forward Saturday to the return of Keith.

And a return to the Stanley Cup Finals.

ŸListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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