By Brad Gardner
Jonathan Quick continued to baffle the Blackhawks when his Kings club visited the United Center on Sunday evening. The Blackhawks battled back to tie the game twice and earn one point in the standings, eventually falling to Mike Richards’ conversion in the shootout for a final score of 3-2.
The Kings set the tone early with a chance off the opening faceoff. Nick Leddy fumbled a pass to his defensive partner that was picked up by Dwight King. He broke in between the two defenders on Ray Emery but the ‘Hawks goaltender was able to deny the game’s first shot.
Slava Voynov was able to get one by Emery a few minutes later. Duncan Keith pinched into the offensive zone but had the puck poked away by Justin Williams. The sent the Kings in on a 4-on-1 against Brent Seabrook, who sold out to take away the passing lane. Williams still had room to get the puck to Voynov, who beat Emery wide to the glove side for the rookie defenseman’s fifth tally of the season.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick extended his shutout streak against the Blackhawks to eight periods by taking the 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The ‘Hawks even had a late power play opportunity in the first period but managed only one long-range shot on net.
The home team was able to turn up the pressure in the offensive end for the better part of the second period and finally cashed in against Quick with a 3-on-2 rush. Patrick Sharp took the initial chance but had his shot gloved away by defenseman Drew Doughty as he slid into his own net. Marcus Kruger then chipped the rebound over Quick and Doughty as they lay in the crease to get Chicago on the board at 12:37 of the middle frame.
The tie would not last long, however, as Jeff Carter was able to put Los Angeles back on top with less than three minutes remaining in the second period. Dwight King dumped the puck and won the battle along the endboards. Mike Richards joined in the forecheck and leveled Duncan Keith next to the net. That allowed the puck to find a wide-open Carter in front of the net and he was able to beat Emery to regain a 2-1 lead for the Kings.
The ‘Hawks advantage in the shot column continued in the third and included a couple excellent opportunities. Bryan Bickell sent a hot pass from the corner to the front of the net, but Dave Bolland was denied on a highlight-reel save by Quick as he slid over and got a piece of the shot with his glove. Viktor Stalberg was taken down on a breakaway by Rob Scuderi, earning a penalty shot that was denied by a fast closing of the five-hole by Quick.
Patrick Kane was able to poke a loose puck between the legs of Quick and finally tie the game at the 7:36 mark of the third period. Seabrook was down on the ice but still able to tap the puck along the boards to Marian Hossa, who made a strong move from the corner to get the puck to the crease. Kane crashed in and got his stick on the puck before the referee blew the whistle for his 18th goal of the season.
Quick made a handful of saves to finish off the third period, but it was Emery and the Blackhawks who survived the biggest scare. A tripping penalty on Viktor Stalberg with 2:44 left in regulation put the Kings back on the man advantage. They did not manage a shot on net, however, as the ‘Hawks penalty killers were able to keep the puck away from LA and block the only shot.
The Kings managed the only shot on net in overtime, but both squads had a near miss in the extra frame. The ‘Hawks best chance came on a spin-o-rama set-up from Kane to Hossa, but he was covered by Justin Williams and unable to get his stick on the pass. The Kings had a late chance when Jeff Carter sent the puck through the crease, but Emery was lucky enough to be far enough out that it didn’t deflect into the net.
Jonathan Quick did not allow a goal to any of the six shooters he faced in the shootout, but he only had to make a save on half of them. Hossa skated himself out of shooting position while both Sharp and Kruger lost the puck off their stick before taking a shot.
Mike Richards scored the only goal in the shootout by skating in hard and slamming on the breaks. With Emery skating back towards his net, Richards beat Emery to the top shelf on the glove side to give Los Angeles a much-needed two points as they battle for a final playoff spot.
– Emery was strong in the first period against a quick start from the Kings and got a better effort from the players in front of him over the final 45 minutes. Sixteen of his 27 saves in the game came in the first period. He had to make several stops in the shootout but could only keep his team in it against Quick for so long.
– Quick’s shutout streak extended over eight periods of hockey and saw him make over 70 consecutive saves against the Blackhawks stretching back to their first meeting of the season. He gave up plenty of rebounds in this game but had support in clearing loose pucks and limiting second opportunities.
– The Kings held an advantage in the faceoff circle, winning 58% of the draws, and earned a 20-14 advantage in blocked shots. Sharp (1 win, 8 losses) and Kruger (2 wins, 10 losses) brought the ‘Hawks down at the dot. Many other numbers were closer: both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play and the ‘Hawks even kept up on hits, finishing with a 34-33 advantage there.
– Following the slow start, the ‘Hawks began to apply offensive pressure after a fight between Brandon Bollig and Kyle Clifford. Both players landed some punches as the players grappled for position, but I thought Bollig landed a couple more clean shots.
– Johnny Oduya continues to eat up minutes, skating 25:49 for third behind Keith (29:15) and Seabrook (26:46). He finished with three shots on net, but had four attempts blocked and had another three miss the net.
– Jonathan Toews missed his 10th game but is targeting a return in the Blackhawks’ next game Tuesday when they host another battle against St. Louis, a 7:30pm central puck drop.
In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.