LOS ANGELES — It was following an all-too-familiar script. An early lead they can’t hold. A bumbling mess of a second period that puts them in a hole. A halfhearted third-period push that comes up short.
This is what the Blackhawks are, what they have been for a while now.
But then something unexpected happened about halfway through the third period Saturday: The Hawks showed up. Not the timid, self-doubting, easily breakable Hawks of the last two months. The old Hawks. The aggressive, confident, anything-is-possible Hawks.
They fought back. They scored timely goals. They turned a sure defeat into a stunning victory.
A 5-3 victory against the Kings — in which the Hawks scored four goals in the last 10 minutes to turn a two-goal deficit into a two-goal victory — was somehow both a stirring reminder of what once made the Hawks great and a melancholic reminder of how far they’ve fallen.
RELATED STORIES Even on the same team, nobody can agree on goaltender-interference calls Eddie Olczyk on cancer battle: ‘I’m way tougher than I ever thought I was’
‘‘It definitely doesn’t hurt your confidence when you can find ways to win coming from behind on the road against a team like them,’’ said captain Jonathan Toews, who scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 1:58 left. ‘‘It’s something a lot of us are kind of used to, where we can pop a couple late and put some pressure on and our confidence just builds. We all felt like that [today].’’
Most of the things that have plagued the Hawks this season are tangible: Their team defense is poor, their stars are underperforming and goalie Corey Crawford isn’t around to mask those significant issues. But it has been more than that.
As their season unraveled in February, the Hawks often looked lifeless. They always insisted they hadn’t quit, even after a horrid 7-2 loss Thursday to the Sharks, but they looked beaten, a team with no confidence simply playing out the string. The defiant attitude that was their trademark for so long was nowhere to be found.
But there it was in the third period at Staples Center.
‘‘That’s what it’s all about,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Compete. Play hard. You always have to have a purpose behind what you’re doing out there. There’s always motivation to do well and play the game you love to play. Let’s go.’’
The Hawks trailed 3-1 after two periods, an early goal by Jordan Oesterle surpassed by three Kings goals in the second period, two off turnovers by Duncan Keith. The Hawks have scored first in 16 of their last 20 games and seemed destined to lose anyway for the 12th time in those 16 games — a striking statistic for a team that was once the ultimate closer.
‘‘A lot of times recently, we’ve been giving up leads and losing games,’’ winger Vinnie Hinostroza said. ‘‘It felt really good to come from behind and win that one. Just being in the locker room after the game, everyone’s really excited.’’
The Kings certainly helped. Drew Doughty took a hooking penalty, then turned it into a double-minor by mouthing off to the officials. Artem Anisimov scored on the second half of that power play at 10:48 to give the Hawks life. Hinostroza tied the score less than four minutes later. Then, on another power play, Toews fired a sneaky wrist shot that skipped past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to give the Hawks the lead. Patrick Kane added an empty-netter.
‘‘It’s pretty obvious, right?’’ Kings coach John Stevens said. ‘‘Let’s not deny the elephant in the room. Totally undisciplined play.’’
In the end, the two points meant far more to the Kings than they did to the Hawks. The Kings are clinging to a playoff spot, while the Hawks merely are trying to leave a rink feeling good. It was a devastating gut punch for the Kings and a nice afternoon for the Hawks.
‘‘It’s right in front of us that we can be the spoilers,’’ Toews said. ‘‘Play loose, play smart and work hard the way we did tonight.’’
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.