An old friend slipped through the cracks undetected early in the second overtime Wednesday night, drowning the Kings’ commendable efforts to put a cap on this series at the United Center.
Chicago, who beat the Kings in double overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals at the United Center last season, has now done the same to the Kings this year. This time around, it’s not the knockout blow to their season.
The Kings, however, just missed on returning the favor.
“It’s a tough building,” Darryl Sutter told reporters following the game in regards to nearly eliminating the Blackhawks in their own building. “Damn near got it.”
The Kings found themselves in a hole early, the Blackhawks posting two goals in the opening 3:40, but the Kings’ offense, which has been remarkable throughout the playoffs, once again showed it’s resiliency.
Jarret Stoll responded to put the Kings on the board six minutes after the Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead, scoring his first goal of the series on his first shot of the series. Stoll waited out a scramble in front of Chicago’s net, got a stick on the bouncing puck, and chipped it past Corey Crawford.
Stoll’s tally gave the Kings some much needed life, but Chicago came right back with another goal just over a minute later to regain their two-goal lead.
The Blackhawks’ swift response didn’t deter the Kings one bit.
Marian Gaborik, who’s been having a magical postseason in his first run with this roster, got the Kings back to within one goal. Gaborik whistled home a one-timer past Corey Crawford on a well-executed 3-on-2 rush in which Anze Kopitar set him up with a gorgeous pass.
Gaborik’s goal, his league-leading 11th of the playoffs, sent the Kings to the locker room after the first period with plenty of confidence after they allowed two goals in the opening four minutes.
The Kings fed off their ability to not break after Chicago’s early push by completing the turnaround in the second period with a pair of goals exactly two minutes apart from one another.
Dustin Brown tied the score 11:08 into the second period after he followed up on his own missed shot. Brown, looking for a rebound during the sequence, hopped on a rebound that slipped away from Corey Crwford’s grasp, and slammed home the equalizer before Chicago’s defensemen could clear the net.
Two minutes later, Tanner Pearson gave the Kings a 4-3 lead with a buzzing snapshot that beat Crawford high to the top-left corner.
For both Brown and Pearson, it was their second goal in as many games.
The Kings’ 4-3 lead didn’t last long into the third period, as Chicago’s Ben Smith brought the Blackhawks back, burying an open rebound to once again tie the game with 18:43 left to play in regulation.
Neither team scored before regulation time expired, but the Kings killed off two key penalties in the final 12 minutes to extend the game to overtime.
The first overtime period was back-and-forth, fast paced, with very few whistles. The Kings recorded 10 shots on goal, the Blackhawks eight. It took a second overtime period to decide Wednesday night’s affair, and the Blackhawks struck just over two minutes into the fifth period of Game 5.
While looking to set up entry into Chicago’s zone, Trevor Lewis coughed up the puck at the red line. The Blackhawks transitioned immediately, and Brandon Saad found Michal Handzus, who was racing to the Kings’ net undetected, with a pass, and Handzus flipped a backhand shot up high and to the right over Jonathan Quick.
Handzus’ goal, 2:04 into the second overtime, gave the Blackhawks a 5-4 win. It was Handzus’ first career playoff overtime goal, and just his second goal of the postseason. Handzus spent four seasons in a Kings uniform from 2007 to 2011.
Jonathan Quick, who held strong after surrendering two goals in the opening minutes, made 40 saves on Chicago’s 45 shots.
Defenseman Drew Doughty logged an astounding 39:04 minutes of ice time, led all players in shots taken with nine, and chimed in adding two hits and four blocked shots in yet another outstanding night.
“We would have liked to have closed it out tonight, but what can you do?” Doughty told reporters following the 5-4 loss. “We’re going back home and that’s where we’re comfortable.”
The series shifts back to Los Angeles for Game 6 Friday night, slated for a 5:00 PM PST start at STAPLES Center.