Feb 252012

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks were shellacked by the reinvigorated Los Angeles Kings, but it had little to do with the newly-acquired sniper Jeff Carter. Instead, it was the more recent subject of trade rumors surrounding the Kings, Dustin Brown, who scored a natural hat trick in the game’s first 25 minutes that proved to be an insurmountable lead for the home team.

While the Blackhawks had nary a shot to show for their first power play opportunity of the game, the Kings were able to capitalize on their first man advantage after John Scott got his elbow up finishing a check. Jarrett Stoll gained the offensive zone and dropped the puck to Dustin Brown along the sideboards. Stoll kept skating and drew Dylan Olsen out of position, giving Brown enough room to skate inside the dot and wrist the game’s first goal over Corey Crawford’s shoulder at 10:48.

Chicago had two more power play chances later in the first, including about a half minute of 5-on-3 time, but could not convert. They did generate a few chances but Jonathan Quick stood tall and prevented any second chances.

Viktor Stalberg put the Kings back on the power play with just over two minutes remaining in the period. Stoll won the opening faceoff back to Willie Mitchell, who sent a slap shot in on Crawford. The rebound was left right on top of the crease and it was an easy conversion for Brown’s second power play goal of the period. The marker came at the 17:48 mark of the first period and gave the Kings a 2-0 lead they would take into the locker room.

The ‘Hawks carried over about a minute of power play time into the second period, but Dustin Brown was again the one who made the most of the chance. He deflected Duncan Keith‘s pass as the ‘Hawks tried to enter the offensive zone and took off towards Crawford. Mitchell gathered the puck and shuffled it ahead to Brown, who caught Crawford before he could drop into the butterfly to put the Kings up by three goals.

Mitchell extended the lead himself just minutes later on a slap shot from the blue line that Crawford could not see. Stoll won the puck on the forecheck against Nick Leddy and puck made it’s way around the zone. Mitchell had time to drift closer to the center of the zone and improve the angle to beat Crawford for a 4-0 lead 6:49 into the middle frame.

Ray Emery came into the game following the fourth Kings goal, making a few tough saves through the rest of the second period, but the Blackhawks could not capitalize. Quick snuffed out the first breakaway attempt from Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg was wide with the backhand shot on a second breakaway shortly after, leaving the ‘Hawks at a four goal deficit heading into the second intermission.

Needing a quick start in the third, the ‘Hawks instead drew more icing calls than they had shots on net in the first five minutes of the final frame. Patrick Kane and Stalberg skated in on a 2-on-1 for the team’s best chance of the period, but Stalberg shot wide off Kane’s sweet saucer right on to his stick. The L.A. defense did a great job of limiting initial opportunities and their goaltender limited any second chances as Chicago rode off quietly into the sunset.

Game Notes:

– After an 0-for-6 performance in Los Angeles, the ‘Hawks power play has now been held off the score sheet on 37 consecutive opportunities. They managed seven shots on their six opportunities against the Kings, which included a brief 5-on-3 advantage, giving them a total of 41 shots during the dry spell.

– The penalty kill did not perform much better, allowing one of the league’s top defensive teams to get out to a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Jamal Mayers dropped the gloves against Kings’ defenseman Matt Greene early in the second period. The pair jostled for position for the majority of the bout but Mayers managed to land a few shots before they went to the ice. Brown’s hat trick goal quickly eliminated whatever momentum was gained from the fight.

– Crawford seemed a little out of control from the very start of the game but cannot be blamed for all of the goals against him. He had a clean look at Brown’s first tally but he was also wide open because Olsen followed Stoll towards the corner. Brown’s breakaway goal was the one Crawford should have had, but the others stemmed either from defensive breakdowns or heavy traffic in front of his crease.

Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk had more good things to say about Dustin Penner, dressed for only his second game in the last two weeks, than any Blackhawk player tonight. Ray Emery was probably the only guy feeling good about his game as he did all he could to earn the start in Anaheim tomorrow.

– Jonathan Quick earned his second consecutive shutout against the Blackhawks and tied New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist for the league lead with seven shutouts on the season.

– Jeff Carter made his debut with the Kings after coming over in a trade from Columbus. Los Angeles sent defenseman Jack Johnson and a first round pick to the Jackets in the hopes that Carter can help them get out of the league basement in terms of goals per game.

– Injury updates: Jonathan Toews, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Steve Montador did not make the trip to California with the rest of the ‘Hawks. Brendan Morrison was the lone healthy scratch for Chicago. Head coach Joel Quenneville said that both Toews and Hjalmarsson could return to the line-up Wednesday when the Toronto Maples Leafs visit the United Center, but added that Toews has not yet resumed skating.

– First though, the Blackhawks have another captain-less flight Sunday in Anaheim against the Ducks. The game airs on NBC Sports at 6pm central time.

Brad Gardner

In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.

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