CHICAGO -- Even as Michal Handzus was slicing to the net early in double overtime, sending a backhand past Jonathan Quick to extend the Chicago Blackhawks' season and end a memorable night of playoff hockey, there was Patrick Kane gliding almost ghost-like out of the frame.
Kane's work on the winning goal in this 5-4 thrillfest was done earlier in the play. The Blackhawks winger sent a deft little pass to new linemate Brandon Saad and then took defender Alec Martinez out of the play to allow Handzus to break into the clear.
It was a building-block play on what now stands as the most important goal of the Blackhawks' spring, one that sends the two teams back across the continent to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Friday night.
It was the kind of building-block play that Kane made on three other Blackhawk goals as he delivered a virtuoso four-assist performance after having just one lonely assist through the first four games of this Western Conference finals series.
"Well, it was good. I think my teammates made me look good out there, to be honest with you," Kane said. "It's a huge win for us, and it's always nice to contribute. That's kind of the mindset going forward here for the rest of the series and the rest of the playoffs. Try and contribute any way you can every night. Whether it's on the score sheet or any other way you can, so it was a good start."
Not that we haven't seen these kinds of nights from Kane before.
He's a two-time Stanley Cup winner, he scored the OT winner in Game 6 to win the 2010 championship and he was the playoff MVP during last spring's Cup run.
But with his team looking like it was ready to take a knee against a Los Angeles Kings team that might as well have had "juggernaut" tattooed on it in winning three straight, Kane delivered the goods in a manner that can only add to his considerable legend.
After four games that saw Kane looking more than a little out of sorts, his swagger returned with a vengeance as he controlled the puck with that familiar Kane flare all evening.
"I don't look at the stats like that; whenever he has the puck he makes everybody around him better," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "Even if he doesn't have points, he's still making plays and creating chances for our team."
It's only one game, and the Blackhawks needs two more to continue their title defense. But first things first.
On a night being heralded as a playoff classic -- the first overtime period featured a stretch of almost eight minutes of uninterrupted frenzy and lasted 26 minutes in real time -- Kane was the catalyst to a memorable win for a desperate Blackhawks team.
As he did in Game 4, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville juggled around his lines, and on this night his defensive pairings, moving Kane onto a line with Saad and Andrew Shaw.
"Our biggest thing going into the game was to try and get pucks back and create off the turnovers in their end. You saw that a few times," Kane said.
The coaching decision worked, quite frankly, like magic, with the line scoring an even-strength goal to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead just 3:40 into the game.
They scored again at 11:06 to restore the two-goal lead after the Kings had gotten on the board, and you imagined that a trip to Game 6 was pretty much assured.