CHICAGO -- It shouldn't surprise anyone that the Western Conference finals are heading to the West Coast all knotted up at one game apiece.
Two deep, talented, experienced teams shot through with Stanley Cup understanding going toe-to-toe; why wouldn't it be all tied up?
But what has added some unexpected texture to this series is the manner in which the Los Angeles Kings tied this series in Game 2 -- a kind of microcosm of their never-say-die, backs-against-the-wall mentality throughout this topsy-turvy playoff year -- and what it might mean for both the Kings and the Blackhawks.
Because here's the thing: For most of Wednesday's shocking 6-2 Kings victory, a victory that included a five-goal third period, this had all the markings of yet another patented Chicago home victory.
The Blackhawks were faster, more determined and more opportunistic in building a 2-0 lead and keeping the Kings on their heels through most of the first two periods.
In counterpoint, the Kings looked weary, as though the extra off day between Games 1 and 2 had sapped their strength instead of rejuvenating them after two straight seven-game series. The Blackhawks' skilled, speedy defense constantly opened up scoring lanes with heady stretch passes.
The normally responsible Kings were victimized by odd-man rush after odd-man rush, often resorting to clutching and grabbing at the Hawks to try to slow them down.
Indeed, the Kings were assessed four minor penalties in the first period, all attributable to being unable to deal with the Blackhawks' pace.
Then, early in the second period, a defensive breakdown by the Kings on a Chicago line change allowed Ben Smith to step behind the Kings defense and snap a shot past Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Quick to make it 2-0.
And who knows:
If Marian Hossa scores on a dangerous 3-on-2 in the second period, or Brent Seabrook, who was set up beautifully on a 2-on-1 by Kris Versteeg but was denied by a great arm save by Quick, finds the back of the net, or Patrick Kane makes good on a great chance on an ugly turnover in the Kings' zone, the narrative could completely different.
But it didn't go that way, and with time running out in the second period, it was veteran Mike Richards' making a terrific play to get a puck to the front of the net, where it caromed off Justin Williams' skate and into the net to make it 2-1 with 1:46 left in the second.
"There's a little bit of, you know, we can't give up that many [chances] again. Quickie had a couple of big saves for us, but we need him to. But at the same time, yeah, second period we knew we gave up too many 3-on-2s, 4-on-2s, and maybe we got lucky a little bit there, but hey, that's part of the game, too."
Between the second and third, the Kings talked about the good things they could do and had done, and then came out and embarrassed the Blackhawks with five unanswered goals in the last frame.