By Brad Vandenberk
Game 4 of the Western Conference gifted us with nothing but story lines before the puck was even dropped. Duncan Keith was assessed a 1-game suspension for an uncontrolled high stick to the face of Jeff Carter in game 3. Keith received a four minute minor during the game, but the league wanted more and suspending the Hawks D man. Carter received 22 stitches in his mouth and chipped a few pearly whites.
Mike Richards did not dress once again for the Kings missing his 3rd straight. But with Keith out, the Kings were looking poised to get the win to tie the series.
Sheldon Brookbank was inserted into the lineup to take Keith’s “spot”. This would be Brookbank’s first action of this year’s playoffs. Though, before you throw your hands up, obviously Brookbank would not be playing 30+ minutes that Keith logs. The defensive parings changed due to the hot water they were in. Brent Seabrook’s new partner was Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michal Rozsival and Johnny Oduya stayed the same with Nick Leddy and Brookbank rounding out the 6 D men.
Kings opened the game coming right at the Hawks. The Kings looked to get at the Hawks’ reformulated defense and force them into mistakes.
Captain Toews and Marian Hossa test Jonathan Quick early with a quick faceoff win and shot. Toews then walks around 2 Kings Defensemen and Quick makes a save to get the crowd on their feet.
The Kings’ forecheck continued as Kyle Clifford won a battle behind Corey Crawford and sent a pass into the open slot. Slava Voynov grabs the puck and fires it past Crawford to give the Kings an early 1-0 lead and ignite the Staples Center faithful.
The first penalty of the game came to Andrew Shaw who took a not-so-smart slashing call. The Hawks once again kill it off. Kings begin to toss their weight around as Brad Richardson labels Toews along the boards. Patrick Kane has been playing more of a Houdini act lately then playing hockey. It showed early as he was flying around the ice. His speed begins to give the Kings problems when Jarret Stoll grabs him and gets called for holding. Hawks get their first attempt on the power play. The best chance the Hawks get is when the puck sits in the doorstep between Toews feet. The Kings remain in the lead after they kill off the penalty.
Later, the man, the myth, the legend Bryan Bickell, notches another goal and squares the contest at 1-1. He walks over the blue line and places the puck under Quick’s glove and watches it trickle past the Kings netminder. Bickell’s hot streak continues, posting his 8th playoff goal. The period ended tied at 1 and the Hawks barely out shooting the Kings 11-10.
Kane opens the period with the afterburners lit up once again. The Hawks also begin to hammer Kings Captain Dustin Brown. First Oduya hits him hard along the boards then Seabrook does the same on the opposite side.
Jeff Carter then takes the puck up the boards as Leddy tries to keep him to the outside. Carter gets the puck on net and Dustin Penner is there to poke it home past Crawford giving the Kings the lead once again 2-1. Brookbank was victimised again as he stood back and watched Penner sweep the puck past the goal line.
The Kings don’t stop there; Justin Williams jumps off the bench and is all alone breaking in on Crawford. He poke checks Williams to make the save. The speed of the Hawks began to pester the Kings. Michael Frolik his hooked by Matt Greene giving the Hawks another man advantage. There was some good puck movement and Anze Kopitar sends the puck over the glass trying to clear the zone, you know what that means, another Kings penalty.
This would give the Hawks a 5 on 3 for 53 seconds. The Kings killed off both penalties and now the absence of Keith is glaring. Hawks keep the puck in the Kings zone after both penalties expire. Kane finds himself caught up ice when Williams stops the puck at the Hawks blue line. Kane couldn’t catch him and gets called for hooking. Of course the Hawks killed that penalty off to.
With just 1:39 left in the period, coach Q line combinations begin to pay off by reuniting Kane and Toews earlier in the period. Bickell and the boys, work the puck around with Hjalmarsson firing a shot on net. The eclipse know as Bickell tips it past Quick and as it dances on the goal line, Kane super mans in stealing Bickell’s second goal, tapping it past the line tying the game at 2-2.
Kane breaks in again and Robyn Regehr pastes his face against the glass getting busted for an interference call with just 59 seconds left in the 2md. The Kings even the shot total out shooting the Hawks 9-8.
It didn’t take long for Q’s other line combination of Hossa, Michal Handzus and Patrick Sharp to get going. Just as the penalty ends, Oduya catches the Kings on a bad line change sending Handzus and Hossa in on a 2 on 1. Hossa wires the feed from Handzus and the Hawks take their first lead of the hockey game with 18:50 remaining.
Bickell is earning his new contract shift by shift. He strips ex-Hawk Colin Fraser of the puck and instead of dishing to a wide open Kane, he is stopped by Quick. Kane again utilizes his speed and holds the puck, with Quick down, he tries to fire high but the leather is flashed in an extraordinary fashion.
Penner begins to show his frustration throwing elbows to Dave Bolland. Wonder if Richards put in a few requests? Penner was also behind Crawford hammering Seabrook over top of Hjalmarsson.
Frolik takes an unwarranted high sticking penalty after he gets his clock cleaned by Matt Greene. The high stick was to the face of Brown who was only visible in this game playing the role of the pinball.
During the power play, the Kings were only able to get 2 shots on net with all the other ones being blocked by Hawks penalty killers, Handzus, Oduya and Seabrook.
Los Angeles pulls their goalie with just under 2 minutes to play but Crawford and the Keith less Hawks stand tall winning the contest 3-2 and taking a 3-1 series lead on the LA Kings.
-Hawks out shot Kings 28-21
-Both teams went scoreless on the power play with the Hawks going 0 for 4 and the Kings going 0 for 3
-Seabrook owned the Hawks TOI with 26:20 next to him was Rozsival with 25:28. Brookbank only played 6:50 in Keith’s “spot”.
-Handzus 6 for 11 and Bolland 5 of 9 were the only center men over 50% in the faceoff dot.
-Kings lose their first home playoff game in almost 2 seasons.
-Keith will return to the lineup when the Hawks return to the United Center on Saturday night as they try and punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.