Patrick Kane’s OT goal sends Blackhawks to conference final
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter May 13, 2014 6:10PM
Who would you rather the Blackhawks face?
- WATCH: Patrick Kane's series-clinching Game 6 OT goal vs. Wild
- WATCH: Corey Crawford on 'tough team' and 'tough series' with Wild
- WATCH: Kane compliments Wild in handshake line
Updated: May 14, 2014 10:56AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Patrick Kane has done this before, you know. Hostile crowd at a fever pitch, overtime, series on the line — then a shot, then mass confusion, then utter silence and despair in the arena, pierced only by the jubilant shouts of a couple dozen visitors.
Only this time, even Kane didn’t know he had scored. So there was no “heartbreaker” punch. No “King of the World” bearhug. No “Showtime” shout. Just an uncertain look over his shoulder, a Patrick Sharp just-in-case rebound, and then a moderate — by Blackhawks standards, at least — on-ice celebration.
“It was a weird feeling tonight, because at first you didn’t know if it was in,” Kane said after his overtime goal beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in Game 6 on Tuesday night to send the Hawks into the Western Conference final. “The first one, against Philly (to win the 2010 Stanley Cup), I knew it was in. Tonight, I didn’t really know. But when you turn around and you see the puck in the net, anyway, it’s a good feeling. It was exciting.”
After spending all night on their heels, dominated in every facet but the scoreboard, the Hawks won on what Kane called a “wacky bounce.” Brent Seabrook rimmed the puck in from the red line along the boards, but the puck took a funky kick off the back boards and came right to Kane, who faked Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and then roofed it over his head. The puck hit the top of the inside of the net and bounced out to create the confusion, and Sharp smacked it back in for good measure.
It was the third time Kane has ended a series with an overtime winner, including that 2010 Cup-winner and last spring’s Game 5 victory over the Los Angeles Kings that sent the Hawks back to the Stanley Cup Final. Now the Hawks will get at least a couple days off before facing either those same Kings or the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim leads that series 3-2, with Game 6 Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The Hawks would have home-ice against the Kings, but not against the Ducks.
“It’ll be nice to get some time to rest,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “It was big to win this one and not have to play a Game 7.”
By all rights, the Wild should have won this one in regulation. They had the speed, they had the strength, they had the hustle, they had the work ethic, they had the aggression. And they had chance after chance after chance.
But they didn’t have Corey Crawford. Nor did they have Kane. Nor did they have the Hawks’ remarkable knack for closing out series — they’re now 8-0 in Game 6s in their modern era when they can win a series, including 6-0 on the road. No matter how dominant the Wild were, the sense was always there that somehow, some way, the Hawks would pull out the win. They almost always do.
“We just have that confidence going into overtime,” Crawford said. “We felt like we were going to get it done.”
Crawford was the only reason the Hawks even made it to overtime. After Kris Versteeg scored early in the first (on another fluky play from behind the goal) and Erik Haula tied it early in the second on a breakaway, the game turned into a track meet. Theoretically, that should have favored the Hawks. But the Wild have more speed and skill than they’ve gotten credit for, and they also have shown a remarkable amount of resiliency.
The second period was a breathless barrage of golden scoring chances. In one jaw-dropping sequence that had the XCel Energy Center crowd coming unglued, Jason Pominville had a point-blank opportunity that was stopped by Crawford, which led directly to a Patrick Sharp breakaway that was stopped by Bryzgalov, which led directly to a Justin Fontaine breakaway that was stopped by Crawford.
Crawford added stops on a spinning Cody McCormick on the doorstep, and Fontaine on a breakout (and again on Fontaine’s follow-up). The Hawks also caught a break when Pominville’s backhand missed a bouncing puck in the crease, just before Peter Regin cleared it, and when Dany Heatley whiffed on an open look in the slot.
Just like in the second period of Game 6 against St. Louis, when the Blues outshot the Hawks 17-3, Crawford bailed his team out, making 14 stops in the second period and 34 in the game.
Unlike against St. Louis, Crawford had to keep doing it in the third. The Hawks took two penalties in the early going, and didn’t register their first shot on goal until more than 12 minutes had passed. Meanwhile, Crawford made a big stop on Nino Niederreiter on the doorstep, and saw Fontaine’s great chance foiled by Sheldon Brookbank (who helped create it with a turnover), and Granlund’s rebound try draw iron.
“I’m sure he wasn’t the happiest with us, the way we were playing in front of him,” Kane said. “But he did what he does. He’s a great goaltender, and we feel he’s the best in the league for that reason.”
Crawford made just enough big stops, and dodged just enough bullets, to get the game to overtime. And that’s where Kane did what he does.
Now, after two grueling and difficult series in which they didn’t necessarily play their best for long stretches, the Hawks are halfway home.
“We still feel we have another level get to,” Kane said. “It’s exciting to say you didn’t play your best and you still won a series in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s a positive thing going forward.”