Blackhawks and their fans deny Kings the comforts of home
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com June 6, 2013 11:46PM
Chicago Blackhawks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Four
- Blackhawks one win from Stanley Cup berth after 3-2 Game 4 win
- Bickell rising, Stalberg fading for Blackhawks
- Blackhawks’ offense finally finds some room to work with
- VIDEO: Blackhawks’ Bryan Bickell on his recent scoring success
- VIDEO: Joel Quenneville on Sheldon Brookbank stepping up
- VIDEO: Joel Quenneville on playing without Duncan Keith
Updated: June 7, 2013 11:37PM
LOS ANGELES — The puck dropped for Game 4, and Duncan Keith was nowhere to be found.
But the Blackhawks opened up the ice against the hard-hitting Los Angeles Kings, their defense held strong, and they pulled off a huge come-from-behind 3-2 win against last year’s Stanley Cup champs.
With a minute to go at Staples Center, actor Will Ferrell came on the Jumbotron over center ice and screamed like the craziest of fans, ‘‘I NEED TO HEAR YOU!’’
The crowd erupted into its ‘‘Go, Kings, go!’’ chant, which was matched word-for-word by the thousands of Blackhawks fans in the arena screaming, ‘‘Go, Hawks, go!’’
The combo came out, ‘‘Glow, blah, bloke!’’ and must have inspired the visitors even more.
On-fire goaltender Corey Crawford ran out the clock against the dazed Kings and sealed the deal.
Yes, Chicago fans are everywhere. And they’ll go nuts back home when Game 5 occurs Saturday night at the United Center and the Hawks have a chance to move straight on to the Stanley Cup finals.
What will it take to get that critical fourth win?
‘‘Just play well defensively,’’ answered Hawks winger Marian Hossa, as beautiful a veteran skater as there is in the league. ‘‘Just play the checking game, because when we do that, we feel like we have the fastest players and we can take off.’’
Man, can they.
Hossa sped up ice and took a lovely pass from the left side from teammate Michal Handzus early in the third period and lifted it like a laser beam over Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
This is a place where nobody beats the Kings, remember? But the Hawks didn’t get that memo. Had they lost this game, they might have destroyed whatever momentum they had achieved in the first two wins of the series.
‘‘They say the last game is the toughest,’’ added Hossa. ‘‘When you want to close it.’’
And that sweet assist from Handzus, after Johnny Oduya stole the puck to set up the charge for that third and game-winning goal?
‘‘Ahh, that hit me right in my wheelhouse,’’ the gifted man said with a smile.
Getting hit in the wheelhouse is a good thing. Better than getting hit in the face and needing some dental adjustment and 21 stitches, as the Kings’ Jeff Carter did after Keith whacked him in Game 3. That’s why Keith wasn’t around, but Niklas Hjalmarsson and defenseman Brent Seabrook played more than 24 minutes each, and they finished a combined plus-3, meaning they done damn good.
‘‘Everybody who was chipping in, whoever was there, they are on the same page,’’ Hossa said.
That means even the much-criticized and bottled-up Patrick Kane, the little dervish who twice was crushed into the boards by Kings semi-brute Robyn Regehr, who goes 6-3, 230.
But Kane came flying from the left, tapping in the second goal of the game,while launching himself over Quick like a Frisbee.
It was great to see, proving that, as Kane had said, ‘‘I didn’t suddenly just get bad.’’
Kane flew all over, finding open spaces and, best of all, going to the net.
‘‘Their transition is where it gets really hard,’’ said Kings forward Dustin Brown. ‘‘You’re ultimately going one way and they’re going another.’’
That’s the good Blackhawks we know, the ones who have such gifted players as Jonathan Toews, Kane, Hossa, Patrick Sharp and so many others. It’s the Blackhawks that don’t get caught up in dumb fights and silly slashes. The team that coach Joel Quenneville has built to prove other teams aren’t as skilled or cohesive.
‘‘At this stage, it doesn’t matter who scores,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘You just want to win.’’
Yes, you do. A second trip to the finals in three years is the prize. Then, maybe a second trip for the Cup itself, showing up in the schools and offices and parks and bars in Chicago.
For Keith, it has to be a relief that his team won without him.
And it should be a reminder that the Hawks are deep and good. Keith isn’t a bad guy, and he immediately tried to apologize to Carter after high-sticking him. And he didn’t complain about Carter having tried to break Keith’s hand with a nasty slash to Keith’s fallen left glove only moments before the penalty.
But that was two games ago.
Now it’s full strength on the home ice coming up.
Biggest game of the year.