Blackhawks still want to be king of the mountain
You don't climb a mountain in a single leap.
It takes one calculated step after another, never looking too far ahead and -- most crucial -- never looking back.
The Blackhawks have reached the summit before, so at least they have the Detroit experience going for them.
"One shift at a time," said captain Jonathan Toews. "When you dig a hole like this, you have to take small steps."
That was the talk inside the Hawks' dressing room before Game 5 against the Kings. Make every shift meaningful. Make every shift crucial. Make every shift count.
And play like you actually believe you can win a game.
The Stanley Cup champs showed up Wednesday night for the first time since the middle of Game 2 and announced to the Kings that winning that coveted fourth game in the Western Conference finals will be no easy task.
The Hawks blew a pair of 2-goal leads and had to rally to tie it at 4-4 in the third, and then Michal Handzus won it in double overtime and the Hawks now trail the Kings 3-2 with the series headed back to Los Angeles for Game 6 Friday.
"After the second period, being down a goal, we talked in the dressing room about how we wanted to play more hockey, how it was too soon to end the season," said Brandon Saad, who had a monster game with a goal and 2 assists. "We didn't want it to end now."
If they can somehow win Game 6, well, the Hawks will have themselves quite a Game 7 story to tell.
"The pressure was all on them coming into this game," Saad said. "It's only going to get worse from here for them. They don't want to come back to Chicago."
But that's looking too far into the future for the Hawks, who understand they must take a shortsighted view again in Game 6.
"When you take it one step at a time, the game slowly shapes the way you want it to," Toews said. "You realize how much the little things really add up at the end of the game. You don't worry about the end result when you go into a game. You just worry about the little 1-on-1 battles. You have to win the next shift."
The Hawks got off to a fabulous start, scoring twice in the first 3:40 of the game, but a brutal Brent Seabrook turnover led to the Kings' first goal, and after Patrick Kane forced a turnover that led to the Hawks' third goal, Toews nearly made it 4-1.
But a brilliant save from Jonathan Quick sent the Kings the other way and Marian Gaborik scored to cut the lead to 3-2. The Kings scored twice more and led 4-3 when Ben Smith tied it on a rebound early in the third.
It was 4-4 in double OT when Saad saw Handzus cruising down the slot. He corralled the puck, moved in on Quick and went forehand-backhand for the game-winner.
"I saw him and put it off his skate," Saad said. "He made a great play to pick it up."
Saad, Kane and Andrew Shaw -- who appeared to suffer another knee injury -- had 9 points as a line, saving the Hawks in Game 5.
"We had a big night," Saad said. "It feels good to get it going but we're going to have to do a lot more. It's going to just get harder from here."
Kane had 4 assists, including a pass to Saad to start the game-winning sequence.
"We just wanted this game," Kane said. "Honestly, that's all we thought about. That's all we talked about. If we think that way again, we'll come back to Chicago."
The Hawks have now won 10 straight Game 5s, and since 2009 and they're 8-3 when facing elimination. Over the last two years, the Kings are just 8-6 in games when they have a chance to clinch a series.
They'll have another chance Friday night in Los Angeles.
"We were expecting their best game," said the Kings' Trevor Lewis. "We were expecting them to come out hard at home. They're defending the Stanley Cup. We didn't sit here thinking they would give up without a fight."
The Hawks gave the Kings everything they had, and no one from Los Angeles thought it would be easy.
"The toughest game to win in every series is the (clinching) game," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. "Doesn't matter if it's the fourth game or the fifth game or the sixth game or the seventh game. It's the toughest one to win."
For the Hawks, it will again be one shift at a time, one small step up the mountain.
This is no time to look down.
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