Updated: July 1, 2014 6:59AM
LOS ANGELES – This was how it was going to end? With the Blackhawks skating in a dry-ice fog in the biggest game of the season? That was the message being sent through their discombobulation in the first period Friday night. They were in sleep mode.
Or was it going to end with a blown lead in the third period with the prize so agonizingly close?
No and no.
Not if Patrick Kane and his teammates had anything to say about it.
Something happened to the Hawks on Friday night, though it would be much more accurate to say that they made something happen. Sentences and this hockey team are always better in the active voice.
The Hawks took Game 6 of the Western Conference final into their own hands, waking up from one-goal deficits in the first and third period to beat the Kings 4-3. Game 7 is Sundayat the United Center.
Anybody want to count them out now? Didn’t think so.
Kane scored the game-winner with 3 minutes, 45 seconds left. You’ve read this story before, but this is a different version. Kane, who scores big goals like some people breathe, beat Jonathan Quick to force Game 7.
“I looked at him, I think it was about a minute left, I think there was a stoppage of play and I almost started laughing,’’ Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said of Kane. “It’s amazing what he can do in these big games, when our season is on the line and nobody else seems to be able to do it the same way he does it.’’
We shouldn’t have expected less from Kane or the defending champion Hawks.
“We’ve been in this position before where we’ve been down,’’ said Kane, almost shrugging.
The team that was behind three games to one in this series found itself just in time, relying on copious amounts of determination and talent to move within one game of a return to the Stanley Cup final.
Question: Do or die?
Goals by Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez had given the Kings a 3-2 lead in the third. The Hawks looked like they were in trouble. Looks can be deceiving.
When all seemed lost, Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith scored the tying goal 11:34 into the third period. Then came Kane’s wrist shot after a skate through the L.A. defense, and, well, here the Hawks are again. Simple, right?
There’s something about this team. If the Hawks weren’t left for dead after falling behind three games to one in this series, they were left for being incapacitated. But being the defending Stanley Cup champion should count for something. So should two Cups in four years. Some of us forgot that along the way.
“Top players, they want to win,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. “They find ways.’’
This game first turned on in a 97-second span in the second period, when goals by Kane and Ben Smith brought the Hawks to life after a lethargic first period.
Kane took a pass from Toews on a power play and beat Quick to tie the game. Then Patrick Sharp, who hadn’t been seen or heard much in this series, slid a perfect pass across the ice to Smith, who knocked the puck off Quick’s skate and into the net. Just like that, it was 2-1.
And just like that, the suddenly reanimated Hawks looked like the team it’s supposed to be. Why it needs to feel a wall against its back before it reacts, I don’t know. It just does. I’d call it “charming,’’ but there’s nothing charming about stress-induced ulcers.
The Kings are part of the problem. These are two excellent teams trading leads and haymakers.
“This is a wow factor in this series, especially with the last two games,’’ Quenneville said. “You’ve got two competitive teams that have … experience players experienced in this situation. It’s been amazing. As good as it gets.’’
The Hawks woke up in a big way after a listless first period. Corey Crawford almost went at it with Quick in a goalie-on-goalie tussle at the end of the second period until officials got between them. Everything was on the line.
The battles fought in front of Crawford were ferociousFriday night. He was spectacular at times, and his defense did the dirty work in front of him.
The Kings have won two Game 7s already in these playoffs. The Hawks don’t have a lot of experience with failure the past five seasons. Something has to give. I think.