The Stanley Cup playoffs have provided a role reversal for the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings. The defending Stanley Cup champions were facing elimination in Chicago in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals -- only this time, the Blackhawks were down by 3-1 instead of the Kings. Once again, an elimination Game 5 between the Blackhawks and Kings went into double overtime, and once again Chicago won by 5-4 -- but this time, there will be a Game 6 as a result.
Los Angeles got off on the wrong foot in its attempt to finish off Chicago, as the defending champs jumped ahead by 2-0 within the first four minutes. Yet by the time the period was over, the Kings had pulled to within 3-2. In the second, Los Angeles pulled ahead with two goals, peppering the shaky Corey Crawford with 16 shots along the way.
The Blackhawks were left with only 20 minutes to save their season and make this year's Stanley Cup playoffs follow a different script. It didn't take long for Chicago to rise up, as Ben Smith tied it up just 77 seconds into the period. But despite the barrage of goals in the early going, and despite the Blackhawks getting 16 third period shots on Jonathan Quick, the score stayed locked at 4-4 going into overtime.
When Chicago and Los Angeles went into overtime in Game 5 of the 2013 conference finals, Patrick Kane ended the series in the second overtime and ended the Kings' reign. In this case, Michal Handzus ended the second overtime just two minutes in, extending the series for the Blackhawks instead of ending it.
Now that these Western Conference finals are finally moving beyond the 2013 formula -- only in the Kings' favor this time -- the Blackhawks can hope to forge an entirely new direction. Can they rally from a 3-1 hole like they did in the second round last season, or have the Kings learned enough lessons from rallying over the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks this postseason to protect a lead?
These Stanley Cup playoffs had provided so many thrills and comebacks, the Kings and New York Rangers threatened to make the conference finals anticlimactic with their 3-1 leads. But with the Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens each winning wild Game 5's at home, perhaps things haven't settled down in the NHL quite yet.