Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane celebrates with a slide on his knees… (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated…)
CHICAGO -- It had to end this way, with a moment meant for the cover of a media guide.
A game this good deserved an ending this dramatic.
So when Patrick Kane scored his third goal of the game high over the glove of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick's glove to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Saturday night, poetic justice was served in Chicago.
A hat trick for Kane put the Chicago Blackhawks back in rhythm for the Stanley Cup Final.
BOX SCORE: Blackhawks 4, Kings 3 (2 OT)
The man whose goal won the 2010 Stanley Cup title scored another to give the Hawks a chance to win again.
After the first six minutes of Saturday night's game at the United Center, this sentence was typed on computers across hockey America:
Nobody can beat the Blackhawks.
After the franchise's first double-overtime game in 16 years, everything had changed, including the punctuation. Nobody can beat the Blackhawks?
The Kings supplied a large measure of doubt with an epic effort that, to the chagrin of Chicagoans everywhere, sent a game into double-overtime because the Hawks couldn't finish what they started.
And what a start it was.
For days and possibly years in barrooms and boardrooms around Chicago, on talk radio and in text messages, they will tell their friends about The Start of Game 5. They probably will discuss The Finish even longer.
Both contributed to producing a hockey classic, which went into its first overtime when Mike Richards deflected Anze Kopitar's shot past Corey Crawford with 9.4 seconds left. Just 3 minutes 43 seconds earlier, Kane scored what appeared to be the winning goal off a pretty pass from Bryan Bickell.
It all left the crowd of 22,224 debating whether what was more exciting: the last four minutes of regulation or the first six?
The Kings came into Game 5 needing a victory to save their season. The Blackhawks played the first 20 minutes as if this was their elimination game because Joel Quenneville instilled a Game 7 mind-set. Turns out they met their match in the Kings, who overcame what qualified as Coach Darryl Sutter's worst-case scenario.
Before the goose bumps had disappeared after Jim Cornelison's anthem, the Hawks led, 2-0. Thanks to two of the Hawks' biggest names, the team from Hollywood was star-struck.
At the 3:42 mark, Duncan Keith caught the Kings in a line change and unleashed a shot from the blue line that beat Quick and squeaked between the pads through the five-hole.
Just 2 minutes 17 seconds later, Kane handled a rebound, used a head fake and waited until Quick went down to score his first of three goals. The flurry shook the Kings to their core so much that it took them 10 minutes 42 seconds to attempt a shot on goal. Crawford made it back from the concession stand in time to stop it.
The start was so good it was too good.
After the Hawks' second relatively easy goal, it was as if they lost momentum exhaling and started thinking about ticket demands for Wednesday's Game 1 against the Boston Bruins.
The proud defending Cup champs outplayed the Hawks over the final two periods, tying the game before Kane's controversial goal on a play that Bickell could have been called for a penalty on Justin Williams.
The Hawks needed the goal only because Bickell earlier had changed the game in a negative way this time by running Jake Muzzin into the boards at the 2:50 mark of third period and heading to the box. Less than a minute later, Kopitar knocked in a rebound to tie it at 2.
This would serve as the latest test of the Hawks' resolve, which Quenneville keeps amply supplied.
Many reasons exist why the Hawks have reached this point: the clutch play of leading Conn Smythe candidates Crawford and Bickell, the leadership of Jonathan Toews throughout the series against the Detroit Red Wings, the resurgence of Kane, the depth of the defense and penalty-kill.
None is bigger than Quenneville.
When the season included a manufactured goalie controversy after backup Ray Emery got hot, Quenneville consistently supported Crawford. When the postseason called for Quenneville to shake things up, he paired Keith with Brent Seabrook and reassembled his Desperation Line of Toews, Kane and Patrick Sharp.
Quenneville has been at his tinkering best again against the Kings, finding the right combinations defensively in Game 4 with Keith suspended and following his gut in putting Bickell on the top line with Toews and Kane. After Game 3, Quenneville called out his star publicly but followed that up with a private conversation that paid off when the winger responded.
It required every ounce of Quenneville's leadership ability to pull Kane and the Hawks through their latest predicament.
Nobody ever will forget the night he did.