Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Five

Blackhawks stay alive by beating Kings in double-OT


Being down 3-1 in their Western Conference final series, the Chicago Blackhawks likely knew this wouldn’t be easy. They went through a lot in Game 5 but ultimately kept their season alive thanks to a thrilling 5-4 double-overtime win on Wednesday.

The Kings now carry a 3-2 series lead to Los Angeles with a chance to stomp out what could be a dangerous comeback bid by Chicago.

If you want to single out some Blackhawks standouts, you would do well to mention Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad. Kane generated four assists in Game 5 after being held to a single helper in the first four contests of this series while Saad was a consistent threat while producing three points.

Saad’s biggest contribution probably came when he set up Michal Handzus for the decisive goal.

Goalies finish strong

While Corey Crawford’s early struggles carried the most attention because of the dramatic nature of some of the goals and his negative body language, each netminder experienced miserable moments before tightening up. To generalize, Jonathan Quick’s night was roughest in the first period while Crawford almost seemed to melt down in the middle frame.

After a frenetic first two periods, the game – and the goalies – settled down as the Blackhawks turned up the pressure in the final 20 minutes of regulation. Chicago generated a 16-8 shot advantage while Ben Smith’s tally sent the contest to overtime.

The first OT period was frenetic as the Kings aimed to move on while the Blackhawks showed no quit. Los Angeles generated 10 shots to Chicago’s eight in that first overtime frame.

At the same time that the Blackhawks were searching for answers on defense, Drew Doughty stood out as a singular force for the Kings. He generated a blistering nine shots on goal through regulation alone and logged almost 40 minutes of ice time tonight.

Things heat up

From Jake Muzzin’s monstrous hit on Marcus Kruger to a game that was wild and thrilling (often both), a series that seemed to lean heavily toward Los Angeles gets a lot more intriguing.

For Los Angeles fans, there are plenty of “almost” moments that are likely agonizing. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks improve to 8-2 in their last 10 games facing elimination. Hockey fans without a horse in the race benefit from a Game 6 in this star-studded series, so the ‘Hawks aren’t the only winners on Wednesday night.

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”

Sutter: Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

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Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.

The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.

“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”

“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”

Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.

“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”

The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…