Any player who tells you home-ice advantage makes no difference is probably lying. No doubt the Blackhawks were thrilled Sunday's Game 7 of the Western Conference finals was in Chicago and not in the Kings' home arena.
"[Game 5 on Wednesday] was probably the loudest I've ever [heard the crowd] in the United Center," Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said Saturday. "It was unbelievable the way the crowd gave us energy."
The Hawks were hoping the fans saved their best for last. Here's what they were thinking Sunday as their team tried to knock off the Kings once and for all.
1 - Flatlined. As in dead. When do the Bears start?
2 - Nervous. Could be awesome. Could be awful.
3 - Hyperventilating. Is this really happening?
4 - Woohoo! Stanley Cup Final, here we come!
3 – Saad lights 'em up
Whatever happened to Brandon Saad in Game 5, the Hawks are loving it. The forward takes a pass from Patrick Kane (who else?) and banks it off Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for a 1-0 lead.
3 – Full power
You knew Kane and Jonathan Toews were due for a spectacular goal. This certainly qualifies: Kane deflects it right through his legs to a wide-open Toews, and that’s left for the captain to do is tap it home. 2-0.
1 – Grrrr, Jeff Carter!
So many Jeff Carter nightmares. After Corey Crawford knocks a rebound straight up, the Kings sharpshooter comes racing in and swats it past Crawford’s head and into the net. Fans were hoping it would be ruled that he put it in with a high stick, but no such luck.
1 – That guy?
Justin Williams finds an opening and fires it past Crawford. The same Williams who ticked off Michal Handzus earlier in the period. Tie game.
3 – Heeerrre's Sharpy
We have a Patrick Sharp sighting. He's been mostly invisible this series, but a seemingly harmless, bouncing shot skips past Quick. Sharp can try that a million more times—make that 100 million—and it won’t beat Quick. This was not one of those times.
Score: Blackhawks 3, Kings 2
2 – Sir Charles in the house
Hey look, it's Charles Barkley wearing a Kane jersey. And making some of his NBA buddies look bad for not showing up (cough, Scottie Pippen, cough).
2 - Hossa the Destroyer
Haven't heard much from Marian Hossa in this series either. But if you look closely, you'll see he gives the Kings fits by driving to the net and getting in Quick’s face. The shots are bound to go in eventually, right?
3 – He gives and gives
It might be possible for Brandon Saad to be TOO unselfish. Early in the period, twice he has the chance to turn and fire the puck on goal, only to try and hit a teammate. Of course, you could say his patience led to a Mike Richards penalty because he helped keep it in the zone for like, five minutes.
3 – Hands off!
Kings captain Dustin Brown barrels into Crawford behind the play. No call. Guess he needs lessons from the Jonathan Quick School of Drama.
1 – Karma's a you-know-what
It's the Kings turn to get lucky. The Hawks block a shot before it gets to Crawford, only to see it end up in Tyler Toffoli's wheelhouse. He finishes it off to tie the game.
3 – What a waste
The nice term for a player like Willie Mitchell is "agitator." To Hawks fans, he's more of a bully. He goes to the box for boarding. Then Drew Doughty is sent off for cross checking. Sigh. And the Hawks still don’t score. Blood pressure … rising …
3 – Sharp strikes again
We take back what we said about the Hawks’ lousy power play. Sharp fires one past Quick’s glove side, and the Madhouse is buzzing again.
Score: Blackhawks 4, Kings 3
2 – Corey! Corey!
Tanner Pearson makes a serious bid to tie it early in the third. Until Crawford smothers his backhand attempt. See above for how the crowd responded.
2 – Look who's got the puck
We're not sure Quick was shaking in his skates when Marcus Kruger--not known for scoring goals—came rushing in on a partial breakaway. The Hawks fans watching, on the other hand, were hoping for the knockout punch.
1 – Gulp.
How did that?! Oh. No. Marian Gaborik scores on a rebound. Tie game again.
1 – Wasn't meant to be
A fluke of a goal ends the Blackhawks season. A tip of the cap for the effort. Maybe next year.
Score: Kings 5, Blackhawks 4
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