LOS ANGELES -- Chants of “we want the cup, we want the cup” echoed throughout the upper rafters of the Staples Center on Friday night. For good reason. Just moments earlier, a low shot on the power play from defenseman Alec Martinez had broken a 2-2 tie and positioned the Kings within 12 minutes of earning a trip to their second appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in three years.
They sensed it, and the chants continued as a result. They were close. Again.
But no more than a half-hour later, a slightly different and certainly quieter chant broke out.
“Chi-Town, baby!” a middle-aged man in a buzzcut bellowed. “Chi-Town,” another responded. A small contingent of Blackhawks fans lingered in the arena’s last row to bask in, yes, a victory. They exchanged high-fives. They, too, were now close.
For the second consecutive game, the feisty Hawks staved off elimination against the Kings in this Western Conference Final, topping them by a score of 4-3 in Game 6. The series is tied 3-3. Game 7 is Sunday at the United Center. And 2,000 miles east, chants of “we want the cup” can presume.
Thank Patrick Kane for that.
Although the Hawks’ forward was held without a goal over the first three games of the series, the talented forward has delivered as of late. Kane posted four points in the Game 5 overtime victory on Wednesday night in Chicago. Two nights later, in another elimination contest, he responded by netting two goals, including the all-important game-winner with less than four minutes left in the third period.
“It’s unbelievable,” Jonathan Toews said of his top-line teammate. “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. 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.
“It’s pretty amazing.”
With the score knotted at four, Kane hovered atop the Kings defense, before choosing to riffle a shot at Jonathan Quick that even Los Angeles’ stout netminder couldn’t get a handle on. And the Hawks held on to their one-goal lead for dear life. Since 2009, the Hawks are 8-0 on the road in Game 6s.
For Kane, his slow start to the series is a distance memory. And he’s not alone in that regard, either.
It’s no secret that goaltender Corey Crawford has experienced similar struggles at moments in this series, especially the last time the Hawks visited L.A. After a 5-2 loss in Game 4, Crawford allegedly sprayed a water bottle in a heckling fan’s face, prompting the fan to file a complaint with the Los Angeles Police Department.
It seemed to suggest a moment of frustration. Although Crawford posted a solid outing in Game 1, giving up just a single goal, over the three losses in Games 2, 3 and 4, Los Angeles put 13 goals past him on 82 shots
At this point, it looks to be water under the bridge. Although he was greeted by a handful of taunts of “Crawford, Crawford” by the home crowd throughout the contest, he shrugged them off.
After holding the Kings scoreless over two overtime periods in Game 5, Crawford saved 26 shots Friday, including 13 over a second period where he stopped a handful of opportunities on a Los Angles power play. It was an effort that more than matched the Kings top goalie in Jonathan Quick. And it kept the Hawks in the game, enough, for Kane’s heroics in the waning moments.
Come Sunday, they’ll get yet another chance to stave off elimination and keep alive dreams of holding onto the Cup.