CHICAGO – It’s a lesson the Kings didn’t need to be taught. It wasn’t going to be easy to bury the Chicago Blackhawks on their own turf. Now the Kings, once again, need to show a little resiliency of their own.
Having given themselves three chances to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, the Kings squandered the first. They showed impressive fight Wednesday night, after twice trailing by two goals early, but one final mistake doomed them in a 5-4 double-overtime loss to Chicago in Game 5 at United Center.
“It’s not easy,” Kings winger Justin Williams said. “Attaining your ultimate goal is never easy. We’re going to do our best to get it done.”
Michal Handzus, the gritty center who once helped build the Kings into a winning team, got loose in the offensive zone and slipped a backhand past goalie Jonathan Quick 2:04 into the second overtime period.
The Kings still lead the Western Conference final series, 3-2, with another chance to close it out Friday night at Staples Center, but palms will be a little sweatier. Lose Game 6, and the Kings will have to return here for Game 7, to the loud arena where the Blackhawks have lost only once in nine playoff games.
“It's a (lousy) loss,’’ Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “I'm not happy about it, obviously. We would have liked to close it out, but what can you do? We're going back home. It's where we're comfortable.”
It’s difficult to believe that these teams have to do this all over again, in such short order. They combined for 99 shots in 82 minutes, 4 seconds of action, and went long stretches in overtime without a stoppage. Doughty played 39:04.
The Kings had to rally from first-period deficits of 1-0 (after only 1:13), 2-0 (after 3:40) and 3-1, but tied it with 8:52 remaining in the second period and took the lead two minutes later, at 4-3.
Dustin Brown scored on a net-front rebound, and rookie Tanner Pearson scored on a stoppable shot to the far, top corner of the net. The Kings, undefeated in these playoffs when leading after two periods, had to know they would get a big push from Chicago at the start of the third period, and it didn’t take long.
“We wanted to leave it all on the ice,” Chicago winger Brandon Saad said. “We just didn’t want our season to end now.”
Chicago’s Ben Smith scored on a rebound 1:17 into the third period, to tie it, 4-4. The Blackhawks kept pushing and outshot the Kings, 16-8, in the third period.
“We had the lead going into the third,” Doughty said. “You can't ask for much more than that. To give up a goal kind of early in the third is a little bit of a dagger. We had opportunities to win.”
They also had a lot of opportunities to get blown out early. The Blackhawks, their season on the line, came out predictably strong, and the Kings defensemen, in general, looked flat-footed.
Doughty took a penalty 30 seconds into the game and Chicago scored on the ensuing power play. Matt Greene got caught drifting in the defensive zone on Johnny Oduya’s goal, which made it 2-0 early. Willie Mitchell’s turnover led to Saad’s goal and a first-period 3-1 lead for Chicago.
The Kings battled back, only to get beaten by a former friend. Handzus, who at 37 is the oldest player on Chicago’s roster, served as a veteran leader for the Kings from 2007 to ’11, and left as a free agent the summer before they won the Stanley Cup.
Handzus struggled for most of this season and, after Game 3, got demoted from his role as second-line center. Never the fleetest afoot, Handzus found himself in prime scoring position in double overtime.
Handzus got the play started by winning an offensive-zone faceoff. Then, after Chicago controlled the puck, Saad fed a nifty centering pass to Handzus, who managed to avoid detection by Kings defensemen in the slot. Handzus put a backhand move on Quick and scored from close range on Chicago’s 45th shot.
“I think I haven’t played very well,” Handzus said. “I want to help the team as much as I can, obviously. I’m playing on the (penalty kill) a lot, and we were giving up the goals. I didn’t play very well offensively. I wasn’t very happy with my play.”
Chicago winger Patrick Kane, quiet for most of this series, picked up his fourth assist of the game on Handzus’ goal.
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