CHICAGO – Patrick Kane skated toward the middle of the ice, dropped to his knees and pumped his right arm, surrounded by a sea of red jumping up and down in waves.
The hats began to come down as the Chicago Blackhawks rushed in to celebrate another trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
It was an emphatic checkmate at the end of a long night. The Los Angeles Kings’ NHL reign is over.
Kane scored his third goal of the game 11:40 into the second overtime period and the Blackhawks beat the defending champion Kings 4-3 on Saturday to advance to the finals.
“Right now I think it’s almost like I’m in a different zone, like in the Twilight Zone or something,” Kane said, calling it the best game of his career. “I’m kind of out of it. It’s definitely a good feeling, though.”
Corey Crawford made 33 saves, and Duncan Keith scored in his return from a one-game suspension as the top-seeded Blackhawks eliminated the Kings in five games in the Western Conference finals.
Chicago will host the Eastern champion Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the best-of-seven championship series on Wednesday night. Boston completed a sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.
“It’s a special couple places. The tradition of the Bruins and the Hawks is special,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I’m sure, you know, the rivalry could return instantly come Game 1. I think it’s good for the league. It’s good for hockey. Two great hockey markets. We’re very excited to be a part of it.”
This is the first finals matchup of NHL Original Six franchises since 1979, and it will pit two of the last three champions against each other.
Chicago won the Cup in 2010, ending a 49-year drought. Boston captured the title the following year.
“Every series presents its challenges,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “Watching Boston, they’re rolling right now. Another tough series ahead of us.”
Los Angeles managed to recover after trailing 2-0 in the first period and 3-2 late in regulation in the longest game in franchise history. Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar both had a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Quick finished with 31 saves.
“We got beat in the conference finals by the best team in the conference at the end of the day,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “We accomplished everything. Once you set the bar up there, then that’s your bar. So obviously we’re disappointed to lose to Chicago, but we’re certainly not disappointed in how we played.”
Kane was in the middle of a quiet postseason when he finished off Bryan Bickell’s shot for his third playoff goal in Chicago’s 3-2 win in Los Angeles on Thursday. The talented forward yelled in relief after that goal and came up with his best performance of the playoffs in Game 5.
After Crawford made a couple of big saves in the first overtime, Jonathan Toews carried the puck up the left side during a 2-on-1 rush in the second extra session. He then made a cross-ice pass to Kane, who one-timed a shot past Quick and into the right side.
Chicago was poised to finish off Los Angeles in regulation when the Kings scored the tying goal with 9.4 seconds left.