How does one put that into words?
The Chicago Blackhawks, playing on home ice, were leading the L.A. Kings by a pair of goals late in the second period when the visitors suddenly erupted for six unanswered goals, including five in the third period, in a 6-2 victory to even the Western Conference Final.
It was a stunning loss for the Blackhawks, who had a chance to go up by three goals but were denied on a brilliant save from Jonathan Quick, who made 23 saves for the win.
Joel Quenneville summed it up, as per Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times: “I really liked how we played for 38 minutes. We did everything we were looking to do.”
The coach also added: “The way it turned on a dime like that, I don’t know if we’ve seen a game like that. … It turned into a disaster.”
It started off well enough.
Nick Leddy opened the scoring for Chicago in the first period, as he went top corner on Quick with a beautiful backhander on a partial breakaway – just over a minute after the Blackhawks thought they scored but had the goal waved off when a video review showed the puck never crossed the line.
Ben Smith made it 2-0 Chicago and everything looked good for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
But the Kings, after Justin Williams got them to within a goal before the end of the second period, clicked on the power play in the third. Jeff Carter and Jake Muzzin scored goals on the man advantage less than three minutes apart, and just like that, L.A. was in front as opposed to chasing this one.
Carter recorded the hat trick in the third period.
“It just goes to show you what can happen when you take your foot off the gas,” said Patrick Sharp, as per Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.