By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks were handed their first loss at the United Center in nearly a month Wednesday night. Jonathan Quick denied 38 shots on goal as the Los Angeles Kings bested Chicago 2-0.
The Blackhawks got off to a solid start in the opening minutes, generating two big scoring opportunities. Andrew Brunette’s backhand attempt was stopped by Quick in the first minute. Brandon Pirri got a look from the slot when Marian Hossa fed him following a takeaway, but the shot was blocked by Mike Richards.
Chicago spent most of the first ten minutes on penalty kill duty. John Scott was tabbed with roughing 2:31 into the game when he took on the Kings in front of the Los Angeles net. At the 5:53 mark, Patrick Sharp was charged with a double minor for a high stick. The PK unit was up to the task, killing all six minutes of the infractions.
The Blackhawks got their first time with the man advantage when Brad Richardson was called for hooking with 5:20 to go in the first. They got another with 2:31 when Drew Doughty hooked Patrick Kane. Both power plays expired with no lighting of the lamp and the teams went to the locker rooms with no score.
Corey Crawford withstood a pair of prime opportunities midway through the second period, including a breakaway by Kyle Clifford caused by Steve Montador losing his stick. The Kings got on the board with 7:53 to play in the period when Trent Hunter put a shot on Crawford that landed in the crease.
Clifford and former ‘Hawk Colin Fraser kept Crawford from covering up long enough for Hunter to loop around the net and flip the puck over the prone Chicago goalie, giving Los Angeles a 1-0 lead.
Late in the period, Jonathan Toews found himself with the puck and without a stick. This went unnoticed by the Chicago defensemen but not Richards, who gained control of the puck and headed for Crawford. Toews’s attempt to contest Richards resulted in a penalty shot. With 3:22 remaining, Crawford snuffed out the shot from Richards, and through 40 minutes, the damage was limited to a one-goal deficit.
Joel Quenneville put his skaters in his Yatzee cup for a quick shake up, but it was Los Angeles who struck quickly in the third. Jarrett Stoll put back a rebound 76 seconds into the period to make it 2-0 in favor of the Kings.
Quick then set about sealing Chicago’s fate, stopping the Blackhawks time and again. Sharp’s point-blank attempt was turned away in the eleventh minute, as was Michael Frolik’s shot via another nice Hossa dish a minute later. A late power play with 4:32 to play gave some hope, but the ‘Hawks couldn’t find a solution to Quick even after pulling Crawford for an extra attacker. Chicago had eight men on the ice with 90 seconds left, putting the Kings on the power play and effectively ending the contest.
-This recap comes to you from the heart of Iowa. Lucky for me out hotel has Comcast Sports Net. Then again, considering the final result, perhaps my luck wasn’t so good.
-Don’t pin this loss on Crawford. He kept hope alive longer that we had the right to expect. He saw 38 shots; Quick was just two saves better in recording his fifth shutout of the season. That leads the NHL. I still expect Crawford to start Friday against Detroit.
-Chicago spent a lot of time chasing the puck in the middle of the game. Quick might have been beatable if he’d seen more traffic in front of him. That happened with more regularity in the third period, but Quick stopped 18 shots and was up to the challenge.
-Was Colin Fraser really prepared to dance with Scott early in the game, or was he reasonably sure the gloves would stay on? Either way, before six minutes of penalties, the Blackhawks played well. It looked like it was just a matter of time before some shots met the back of the net.
-Quenneville was not happy about the way the game was officiated. Some calls went against the ‘Hawks, including Nick Leddy getting a slew foot courtesy of Justin Williams that led to the second goal.
-Marcus Kruger missed another game with concussion symptoms, with Brandon Pirri in his place again on the second line. Pirri, who saw some power play time Wednesday, is a capable fill-in for Kruger. This makes the team’s decision to bring him back so soon after suffering a concussion dubious at best. They rolled the dice on the health of a young player. In this case, they lost and Kruger may be out longer because of it.