CHICAGO – Jonathan Quick rather would be resting up than staring at yet another seventh game.
There’s not much he can do about that now.
A wild and memorable Western Conference final between the Los Angeles Kings and Blackhawks comes down to a win-or-go-home Game 7 in Chicago tonight.
“I guess we can get used to it,” Quick, the Kings’ goalie, said after a 4-3 loss in Game 6 on Friday night in Los Angeles. “We don’t want to be used to it. If you play Game 7s throughout the whole playoffs, it is going to be pretty tough on your body. Whatever. We’re in this situation. Before the series if we were asked, ‘Would you want to go to Game 7 against Chicago?’ and be put in that spot, a one-game thing, I think we would take it.”
It’ll be the third Game 7 of the postseason for the Kings, who dropped the first three games in the opening round against San Jose and then went the distance with Anaheim. They blew a 3-1 series lead to Chicago, and now, it comes down to this.
The winner plays host to the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night.
While the Kings tried to put aside their frustration after missing out on two opportunities to clinch the series, the Blackhawks were breathing a little easier after taking Game 6.
“It’s nice to see that resilience not only in this game but in this series so far,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We’re giving ourselves a heck of a chance going home for Game 7.”
The Blackhawks were just about out of it after dropping Game 4. Back-to-back losses in Los Angeles left them in a 3-1 hole and on the brink of elimination after knocking out the Kings in the conference finals last year on the way to the championship.
Instead, they jumped back into it with two thrilling victories.
There was that epic double-overtime victory in Game 5 at home with Michal Handzus scoring the winner, and Game 6 Friday was about as tense. The Blackhawks survived thanks to a late surge by Patrick Kane after the teams traded leads in the third period.
Chicago led 2-1 after Kane and Ben Smith scored in the second. But there were two big swings in the third.
The Kings looked like they were on their way up 3-2 after Drew Doughty beat a screened Corey Crawford with a wrist shot for his third goal in four games to tie it and fed Alec Martinez for a score.
Kane, whose career has been defined by big plays at the biggest moments, wouldn’t let the Blackhawks fade. He set up Duncan Keith for the tying goal with 8:26 left and fired in the winner from a patch of ice near the painted Stanley Cup logo with 3:45 left.
So the series comes down to a Game 7, the third of the postseason for the Kings, who are 6-0 in elimination games this year. The Blackhawks have won nine of their past 11 elimination games.
“We know that we can still beat this Chicago Blackhawks team,” Doughty said. “But we also know it’s not going to be easy either. They’re going to have their best game in this Game 7, especially in their home rink.”
It would help if they contained Kane.
He has come up big in the past two games with seven points after being held to just one in the first four games. He had two goals and an assist Friday and four assists in Game 5, compared to just one assist through the first four games.
He’s been able to find at least some open ice, something he wasn’t able to do earlier in the series, and the Blackhawks are feeding off that.
“There’s still not much room out there in this series,” Kane said. “Right now you have to take advantage of your opportunities when you do get space. Playing with two hard workers that work really hard to get the puck back, have made my life a lot better as far as getting the puck in good areas where I can make plays. I give the credit to Saader (Brandon Saad) and Shawsy (Andrew Shaw).”