Updated: June 30, 2014 12:56PM
Unhappy with his play in the Western Conference final, Michal Handzus waited for his chance at redemption and made the most of it.
Taking a pass from 21-year-old Brandon Saad on a 3-on-2 break in the second overtime Wednesday night, the 37-year-old Handzus deftly made one quick move and flipped the puck over Jonathan Quick’s left shoulder to give the Blackhawks a 5-4 victory in Game 5.
“I haven’t played very well,” Handzus said. “I want to help the team as much as I can. I’m playing [on the penalty kill] and we were giving up a lot of goals, so I didn’t play very well offensively. I’m glad I came through.”
It was almost happenstance that Handzus was playing for Andrew Shaw on a line with Saad and Patrick Kane, a line that proved to be a revelation. Patrick Kane took advantage of a neutral-zone turnover and got the puck to Saad, who waited for Handzus to get open and perfectly time the pass right in front of Quick for the winner.
“Kaner made a nice, soft pass,” said Saad, who had a goal and two assists and was a plus-4 for the game. “I saw a 2-on-2 and the Zeus had some speed there going to the middle, making it a 3-on-2.
So I threw it to him and he handled it off his skate and made a good move.”
It’s been a long time since Handzus’ speed figured into a game-winning play that overtly and he knew it.
“I think [Saad] slowed down, so it looked like [speed],” Handzus said. “I was surprised I got open like that. He had a great heads-up play and he kind of waited and waited. He brought two guys to him and he made a great pass.”
It was a fitting ending for a line that made coach Joel Quenneville look like a genius. He put Kane with Saad and Shaw and struck gold. Kane had four assists and was a plus-3. Shaw had two assists and was a plus-3.
“They were excellent, outstanding,” Quenneville said. “They brought speed of the rush; play recognition, finish, support. I thought they all had huge games. That might have been a discovery.
“[Saad] had a special night. He had a lot of speed. You look at Shaw, Kaner’s contributions. Just one of those nights where everything fell in very nicely.”