By Chris Kuc
May 12, 2009
The Blackhawks' second-year winger is all of 5 feet 10 inches and 175 pounds, but he turned into a bit of a monster in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night at the United Center.
Taking offense at several choice comments from Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell earlier in the series, a fired-up Kane scored three goals for his first career hat trick to lead the Hawks to a 7-5 victory and the conference finals for the first time since 1995.
The Hawks blew a two-goal lead in the second period but came back from two one-goal deficits in the third.
In the conference finals, they'll face the winner of the Detroit-Anaheim series, which resumes Tuesday night in Anaheim with the Wings holding a 3-2 lead.
Following Vancouver's 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the series, Mitchell wasn't very impressed with Kane's two goals and said he "is not a guy who is really going to hurt us even strength."
And yet Kane did hurt Vancouver on Monday and afterward had a message for Mitchell.
"Anytime you get a wake-up call from old Willie Mitchell over there ..." Kane said in the Hawks' jubilant dressing room.
"I don't know if you want to fire up a player like that throughout the series, but he decided to make some comments and kind of fired me up a bit. He said I couldn't play 5-on-5. I think I had three goals 5-on-5 tonight."
Kane did in fact score three times at even strength while Jonathan Toews added two power-play goals and an assist. Kris Versteeg and Adam Burish also added goals.
"It's about time I got the first hat trick of my career," Kane said. "I guess it couldn't have come in a better game than this. If this was to be my first one, what better game to have it in? I had chills going down my spine."
The seven goals all came against one of the top goalies in Roberto Luongo and allowed the Hawks to reach the conference finals for the first time since '95, when they lost in five games to the Red Wings.
"At this point, we're still pretty in awe," said Toews, who had one of the Hawks' goals in the third as they outscored the Canucks 4-2 in the period.
"We never really had time to look back and see how far we've come. We're unbelievably excited. We didn't want to go back to Vancouver for Game 7.
"It was back and forth, you never knew what was going to happen. We went down a goal and went up a goal. We stuck with it and got the breaks and made it happen."
Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin yielded five goals on 38 shots, while Luongo stopped 23 of the Hawks' 30 shots.
"I felt I let my teammates down," Luongo said. "We had a lot of chances early, but when the game turned wide open, I didn't make the saves that were needed."
Daniel Sedin had two goals for the Canucks, while Mats Sundin, Mason Raymond and Shane O'Brien also scored.
Brian Campbell and Martin Havlat each had two assists for the Hawks.
"I don't think anyone anticipated the crazy third period," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was so unpredictable and a very exciting ending. everyone should be excited about their contribution."
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