By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks brought their six-game road trip to a close Saturday night with their second victory in a row. The Blackhawks swept the back-to-back, following up Friday’s come from behind victory in Anaheim with a 2-1 triumph over the Los Angeles Kings.
The Hawks opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Duncan Keith fired a shot on goal from the left point. Marcus Kruger got a piece of the puck, and the deflection struck the side of the net and rolled toward the end boards. As Dave Bolland swung from the crossbar, Andrew Brunette calmly collected the puck and executed a nice wraparound on goalie Jonathan Quick.
Brunette, who played on the third line with Bolland and Kruger, potted his first even strength goal of the season. He proved to be efficient with the puck, drawing twine on his only attempt of the evening.
Chicago limited the Kings chances to score in the opening period, but Los Angeles evened the score midway through the contest. Keith stopped Matt Greene’s shot attempt only to see Jarret Stoll get control of the puck. Stoll took advantage of the turnover, firing a shot over Corey Crawford’s glove to tie the contest at a goal apiece.
Four minutes later, the Blackhawks would convert a fortunate bounce off the boards. Keith, in similar fashion to the first goal, fired a shot to the net. Viktor Stalberg provided the deflection this time as the puck was wide left of the goal. The biscuit came back off the boards and onto the stick of Jonathan Toews as if on a string. From there, the captain simply shoveled it past a diving Quick to restore the one goal advantage.
Chicago entered the third with that 2-1 lead and weathered ten shots and a furious late effort by the home team to send the game into overtime. With 2:35 to play, Stoll created a huge opportunity when his shot rebounded off Crawford and onto the stick of Trent Hunter. Hunter’s attempt at an open net was wide, however, and the Blackhawks held on for the victory.
Thoughts following two weeks on the road:
-John Scott skated 5:48 of fourth line time with Bryan Bickell (7:33) and Jamal Mayers (8:35). Scott and Kevin Westgarth were both in the lineup but the gloves stayed on this year.
-Both goalies saw 27 shots for the game, but Crawford was one stop better, but I thought both guys played pretty well. The game winner was served up on a platter for Tazer; there wasn’t much Quick could do about it. Still, it was nice to see Crawford come back after a game on Friday and log a solid game.
-This is Chicago’s fifth straight win over the Kings over the last two seasons. Four of those five games were one goal losses for Los Angeles.
-Saturday brought to a close a very Jeckyl and Hyde circus trip for the Blackhawks. Sandwiched between an impressive win over the Canucks and solid play in California were the back to back stinkers to Calgary and Edmonton. I thought six points should be considered a successful trip before the ‘Hawks departed two weeks ago. We got six points.
Concerns about the defense along with Bickell’s performance and the losses in Alberta aside, Chicago left town on top of the Western Conference and are returning on top of the Western Conference. Now comes a favorable stretch in which the Blackhawks must continue to rack up the points. It’s great to be on top, but there are still just five points separating the top ten teams of the conference.