Blackhawks' season ends with Game 5 loss to Vegas
The start was everything the Blackhawks could have asked for Tuesday night.
A 2-0 lead. All kinds of momentum. Corey Crawford making one fantastic save after another.
Nineteen minutes in, the need for a Game 6 seemed like a foregone conclusion.
But 19 minutes does not a hockey game make, and the opportunistic Vegas Golden Knights stormed back to claim a series-ending 4-3 victory in Tuesday's Game 5 in Edmonton.
Alex Tuch snapped a 3-3 tie and registered the game-winner 1:34 into the third period. The Vegas forward fended off Hawks D-man Adam Boqvist, put a shot on net and followed up his own rebound for his fourth goal of the postseason.
The Hawks nearly tied it in the waning seconds on a shot by Kirby Dach, but Robin Lehner turned it away. Alex DeBrincat then tried to hit Brandon Saad with a pass in front of the net, but Saad had his stick lifted and the puck sailed by.
"Tough to be done. Disappointing. We want to keep going here," said coach Jeremy Colliton. "You love to be in these situations and playing in big games. I thought our team played very hard. Ultimately we came up against an excellent team with a ton of depth. They just kept pushing us.
"We responded well in a lot of ways; we just couldn't quite find the consistency throughout games to get a couple more wins on the board."
Crawford made 35 saves, while Lehner made 23.
"It felt really nice for me to close this out," said Lehner, who played most of this season with the Hawks before being traded at the deadline. "It's a bit weird playing your old teams, especially that group.
"That group is a (heck) of a group. They treated me really well, got a lot of friends on that team. All about love for that organization."
The Hawks' goals came from Jonathan Toews, DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.
Toews and DeBrincat scored at 10:32 and 18:19 of the first period to open the scoring. It was Toews' fifth goal of the postseason and DeBrincat's second, his other coming into an empty net Sunday.
But instead of getting to the intermission with a 2-goal cushion, the Hawks let Vegas back in the game when Max Pacioretty scored just 70 seconds after DeBrincat's goal.
Vegas then tied it 57 seconds into the second period when Mark Stone redirected a pass past Crawford.
Three minutes later, Kane restored the Hawks' lead when he beat Lehner through the five-hole with a nifty move in tight after taking a perfect pass from Drake Caggiula. It was just Kane's second goal of the postseason and his first since Game 2 against the Oilers.
"I would've liked to have had a little more production," Kane said. "Happy with the way I played for the most part. I thought I generated and created pretty much every game.
"Couple bad breaks. I hit four or five posts throughout the postseason. Would've been nice to get a bounce maybe get some momentum going that way."
Alex Martinez evened things up when he whistled a one-timer past Crawford at 7:28 of the second period. The power-play tally came as Adam Boqvist sat in the penalty box for holding the stick of Jonathan Marchessault.
Colliton scratched Alex Nylander and replaced him with John Quenneville, who saw nearly 14 minutes of ice time while skating primarily on the top line with Toews and Dominik Kubalik.
So ends another season, one that shouldn't have included a playoff berth in the first place.
The Hawks now must use the experience to grow and take the next step in 2020-21.
"It's nice to play in the playoffs again, you know?" Kane said. "It's been a while. ...
"I thought we were very prepared against Edmonton and we can learn from the way Vegas plays. They play hard. They play fast. But they also aren't afraid to jump in the rush and make plays and use that transition to their advantage.
"That's maybe the next step for us. It's tough to look on the brighter side right now after a loss. But that's a good team over there and we can learn from them."