Hawks-Kings Game 5: One of the Greatest Hockey Overtimes Ever Played
“I’ve seen a lot of games, been involved in a lot of games,” said Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who has been behind the bench for 17 seasons. “That might have been the greatest overtime I’ve seen.”
He was referring to the first of two overtime periods in last night’s 5-4 classic between the Hawks and the Los Angeles Kings, a game his team needed to win at home to avoid staying there for the summer. The 37-year-old Michal Handzus scored the game winner two minutes into double OT, extending the series to six and bringing everyone back to L.A.
But the true star of the show was that first 20-minute block of sudden-death hockey, which was back and forth and up and down and oh my god terrifying for everyone involved. At one point, there wasn’t a single stoppage in play for eight-plus minutes. Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford, each having already given up four goals on the night, regrouped to combine for 18 first-overtime saves. The shot-attempt chart nicely illustrates that at no time during the rest of the seesawing game was play closer than it was during that first extra session.
It was the kind of 20-minute stretch that can turn a casual viewer into a genuine hockey fan, and a glimpse into why the current conventional wisdom holds that the Eastern Conference final winner is mostly playing for the right to get swept next round. To the gloriously taciturn Kings coach Darryl Sutter, of course, it was all just business as usual. Asked when the last time was he saw an overtime with this sort of pace, he replied, “Well, probably every one we’ve had. How many have we played this year?”
It was a long road to get there. The Blackhawks got off to a 2-0 lead just 3:40 into the first thanks to a power-play goal by Brent Seabrook and a wrist shot from Johnny Oduya, and they held a 3-1 lead just over halfway through the period when Brandon Saad converted a setup from Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane. But the Kings, as they’ve done all series, answered back, tying the game 3-3 midway through the second period and taking a 4-3 lead into intermission. Ben Smith would tie the game at 4-4 a little over a minute into the third period, one more tide change in a game full of them.
The line of Saad, Shaw, and Kane was an attempt by Quenneville to shake up his struggling team, and the gambit was a success: Kane, who has had (by his standards) a quiet series, assisted on four of Chicago’s five goals, while Shaw added two helpers. Saad, meanwhile, was perhaps the best player on the ice. He had seven shots on net and finished with a goal and two assists — one of which was a beauty of a pass to Handzus for the game winner.
“I saw him for a second and threw it,” Saad said, before taking a moment to celebrate his 37-year-old teammate’s old-man speed. Told of the praise, Handzus could only chuckle.
“I think he slowed down, so maybe it looks like it,” he said. “I was surprised, too, that I got open like that. He had a great heads-up play that he waited, waited, bring the guys to him, then just made a great pass.”
There was a typo, I’m pretty certain, in the official transcript of the postgame press conferences distributed by the NHL. Asked about that first overtime, Patrick Kane called it an “unbelievable period.” According to the document, he then went on to explain: “Not a lot of whistles. Just up and back. It was a fun period of happy.”
That last part may have been an error, sure — although who knows; we’re talking about a guy who, earlier that day, had described the upcoming Game 5 as “some of the funnest moments you look forward to your whole life” — but it was also pretty much the best way to describe last night’s hockey game.
Apologies to L.A. and Chicago fans, who have probably spent quite enough time at the edge of their seats, thankyouverymuch, but I hope things don’t end on Friday night. This is a series that deserves to go all the way. Game 7 overtime, anyone?