CHICAGO – They met at the intersection of Desperation and Opportunity on Wednesday night.
What happened was a 38-man pileup that would be investigated forever, except there’s another one Friday.
There were nine goals, and yet all the conversation was about a scoreless first overtime. There were nine goals, and yet goalies Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford kept rising up and catching bullets.
The ninth goal, and the game-winner with 2:04 gone in the second overtime, was scored by a guy who played 14:30 out of the 82:04 of actual play, and who scored four times in 59 regular-season games, and who had only scored once in the playoffs, and who is 37 years old besides, chasing around all these young sprinters.
But, on a night when the hockey gods gathered in wonder, it made sense that it all came to an end from the hand of Zeus.
That is Michal Handzus’ nickname, and what they used to bellow from the rafters of Staples Center when he was a center for the Kings. Here he chugged down the middle after the Kings turned over the puck in the neutral zone, and he took a pass form Brandon Saad before anyone realized he was there (even though he is 6-foot-5) and he flipped it past Quick.
The Blackhawks won, 5-4, and drew to 3-2 in the Western Conference final. Describing the rest of it is a little tougher.
Saad described Handzus coming up the ice “with speed,” which is not something Handzus is often accused of possessing.
“Well, he slowed up a little bit so maybe he made it look like that,” Handzus said, after he got to the front of the net before an alarmed Mike Richards could catch him.
“He (Saad) did a good job of holding onto it and drawing two guys toward him. It was good because I haven’t played very well in this series. I’m always killing penalties, and we’ve been giving up goals on the power play, so I know I can play better.”
None of the home fans wanted to see it go any longer at United Center, but most disinterested parties did. The first overtime was like tennis on skates, with rush after rush after rush.
For a period of 7 minutes, 56 seconds they played without a stoppage. You and I might call it the greatest overtime we’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t mean much compared to the opinion of Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who played in 1,211 regular-season games and 162 playoff games and has coached 887 regular-season games and 49 playoff games.
“That might have been the greatest overtime I’ve seen,” Quenneville declared.
“It was fast-paced,” the Kings’ Justin Williams said. “None of us were sitting down when we went to the bench. They were into it, we were into it. It’s a fun time of year.
“When the timeout finally came I looked up and there were only about three minutes left,” Handzus said. “I’m sure it was really entertaining for the fans.”