The defending Stanley Cup champions are still breathing and chasing history.
The Blackhawks willed themselves to a 5-4 victory over the Kings in double overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday night at the United Center to keep their dream of two consecutive titles alive.
Against the relentless Kings, the Hawks got a goal from Michal Handzus in the second OT to stave off elimination and send the best-of-seven series back to the West Coast for Game 6 Friday night with LA holding a 3-2 advantage.
“We don’t want the season to end now,” said Hawks winger Brandon Saad, who had a goal and two assists — including a helper on Handzus’ winner 2 minutes, 4 seconds into overtime No. 2. “We’re having fun playing.”
Game 5 was fun, indeed. And exhilarating, heart-thumping and, well, special.
“I’ve seen a lot of games, been involved in a lot of games, (but) that might have been the greatest overtime I’ve seen,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
In addition to the efforts of Handzus and Saad, Johnny Oduya added a goal and an assist while Brent Seabrook and Ben Smith also scored to keep the Hawks’ quest of becoming the first repeat champs since the 1997 and ‘98 Red Wings on track.
The Hawks' offensive explosion bailed out goaltender Corey Crawford, who struggled at times but ended up the victor over counterpart Jonathan Quick. Patrick Kane was dangerous with the puck all game and finished with four assists while Andrew Shaw added two.
"We put everything on the line," the 37-year-old Handzus said. "It's a big win, but in the playoffs you have to stay (on an) even keel. It's only one game (and) we're still 3-2 down. We have to go there and do the big job, win one there."
After coughing up a 3-1 first-period lead, the Hawks had to rally to tie it on Smith's goal early in the third and eventually win it when Handzus took a pass from Saad in front and beat Quick with a backhander.
"We know we have a lot of character in this room," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "We knew we weren't out of it. It was right there. We stayed positive and … (found) a way."
Crawford and Quick exchanged spectacular saves during the overtimes, with Crawford stoning the Kings' Marian Gaborik and Jarret Stoll in the first OT to keep his team from packing up its equipment for the summer. Crawford and Quick each finished with 40 saves.
"The whole game was some pretty good hockey — probably the highest pace we've seen all year," Crawford said. "Overtime was crazy. We have the momentum now and we have to keep it."
Gaborik and Dustin Brown each had a goal and an assist and Stoll and Tanner Pearson scored, but Quick couldn't hold off a foe clawing to stay alive.
"It's win or go home for them — it's desperation time," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "We tried to match that as best we could. We just fell a break short in overtime."
The Hawks realize Game 5 is just the first step of a big hill to climb after the Kings had won the three previous games. As befitting a team that is seeking its third Cup in five seasons, the Hawks believe in themselves.
"It's a special group," Kane said. "It seems in a lot of games we find ways to win whether we should or not. We have a lot of experience and know what it takes to win here. We're very comfortable in that locker room with what's going on."
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