By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks responded on a rare playoff back-to-back, taking a 2-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference finals with a 4-2 victory. The Blackhawks drove Jonathan Quick from the Kings’ crease in the second period, hitting the game’s first four goals and outskating their opposition for the second night in a row.
The Blackhawks came out firing when the game began and turned a nice play by the third line into the game’s first goal. Brandon Saad held the puck in the Kings’ zone along the boards and made a pass to Viktor Stalberg. Stalberg made a pretty backhanded pass to a streaking Andrew Shaw, who beat Jonathan Quick for the goal just 1:56 into the game.
The Kings responded by upping the physical play, finishing checks and generating some shots on Corey Crawford. Nothing got by the ‘Hawks net minder through the midway point of the period.
Brent Seabrook was called for a cross check with 6:08 to play in the first. Niklas Hjalmarsson was without a stick for nearly half the penalty but Chicago still managed to kill the advantage.
Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp created a nice scoring chance that Quick absorbed. In the 19th minute, Jeff Carter dumped the puck into the Chicago zone only to have the puck strike a partition and veered dangerously in front of the net. Crawford came out and smothered Tyler Toffoli’s attempt to tie the game.
Shortly after the close call, Chicago added a late goal when Marian Hossa dropped a pass to Seabrook, who slapped home a shot that beat Quick to the stick side with 19:09 gone in the period.
Bryan Bickell clipped the leg of Drew Doughty, earning a tripping infraction. However, Los Angeles could not score and the ‘Hawks led 2-0 after 20 minutes.
The rest of the penalty was killed to begin the second period, after which the ‘Hawks put the pressure on Quick and the Los Angeles defense. Dwight King was called for tripping in the sixth minute. Carter nearly completed a shorthanded attempt and Chicago had trouble getting something set up.
However, near the end of the power play, Saad brought the puck from behind the net and out to Sharp at the point. The resulting slap shot was stopped in front of the net, where Bickell was waiting to put it past Quick. Bickell’s backhand at 7:11 of the period made it 3-0 Chicago.
The Blackhawks chased Quick from the net minutes later when Michal Handzus and Sharp brought the puck in on him. Handzus wristed a shot past Quick’s stick side to make it 4-0 9:20 into the period. Jonathan Bernier replaced Quick in net.
With 7:24 left in the second, Jarrett Stoll was called for boarding Shaw. Chicago couldn’t add to the lead though several good chances were created. Sharp beat Bernier only to hit the right post with 3:47 left.
Late in the period, Seabrook mishandled the puck near his own blue line. Crawford had to come up with a big save when Dustin Penner bore down on the net. Toffoli just missed the net on his shot attempt.
A moment later, Carter beat Crawford from the left circle to get Los Angeles on the board with just over a minute to play. Still, Chicago held a 4-1 advantage heading to the locker room after two periods.
The Kings got an early opportunity to get back into the contest when Dave Bolland was called for hooking 2:10 into the final period. Chicago killed the penalty with relative ease.
Los Angeles continued to attack the Blackhawks but Crawford was up to the challenge. As the period wore on, the Kings’ frustration was more pronounced. Colin Fraser and Kyle Clifford wound up in the box along with Michal Rozival and Jonathan Toews after pushing and shoving got a bit out of hand.
The Kings wound up with a power play with 8:45 to go but it was the Blackhawks who generated a prime scoring chance when Handzus came up with a steal and breakaway. Handzus and Saad nearly potted shorthanded goals and Los Angeles failed to get any closer.
Toffoli knocked in a bouncing puck on a power play brought on by a delay of game by Duncan Keith. The tally at the 18:58 mark made it 4-2 Chicago. Bernier was pulled for an extra skater but the ‘Hawks handled the last minute to close out the contest.
-Mike Richards was a scratch one day after being leveled by Dave Bolland behind the ‘Hawks net late in Game 1. It was reported as an upper body injury. If Richards is unavailable for the remainder of the series, L.A. is going to have trouble.
-Not only did Crawford outplay his counterpart Sunday, stopping 29 of 31 shots, but stepped in when Clifford was roughing up Jonathan Toews in the third period.
-Saad had a pair of assists on the night and has played well down on the third line. He also rocks a pretty healthy playoff beard for a 20-year old.
-Patrick Kane had a helper on Handzus’ goal but the ‘Hawks could use a breakout game in Los Angeles this week.
-The second line of Handzus, Sharp and Hossa has had a big impact on the series so far. They were good enough for four points on the evening.
-Game 3 gets underway at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday night.