By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks led twice Saturday night at the Staples Center in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. Two Jonathan Toews goals had the Hawks up in the second period but the L.A. Kings took a 40-minute advantage and dominated action in the final period to win 4-3. The Hawks now trail the best-of-seven series 2-1.
First Period-The Kings nearly drew twine in the opening minute after a Dustin Brown shot came off of Niklas Hjalmarsson. Corey Crawford smothered the deflection but the Kings controlled the early action.
Chicago got a strong shift from Andrew Shaw in the fourth minute before Michal Handzus was called for closing his hand on the puck 4:20 into the period. The Hawks turned the tables on the Los Angeles power play thanks to a nice play by Toews.
Toews lost a neutral zone draw but outworked Justin Williams for control of the puck, bringing it into the Kings zone and zipping a shot past Jonathan Quick to give Chicago a 1-0 lead at the 5:26 mark.
The lead would be short lived as the Kings regrouped and converted on the Handzus penalty. Slava Voynov sent a slap shot just inside the left post to even the score at a goal apiece with 6:16 gone in the opening period.
Alec Martinez sent a puck over the glass in the L.A. zone to give the Hawks the man advantage 9:51 into the period. Jeff Carter nearly burned Chicago for a shorthanded tally. Crawford turned away the attempt but the Kings killed the penalty.
Crawford gloved an attempt on goal by Marian Gaborik in the 12th minute. Chicago’s fourth liners put together a good offensive shift.
Toews got his second goal with 6:41 to play in the first period after getting control of a Michal Rozsival shot with his skate. Once he settled the puck, the captain beat Quick high and gave Chicago a 2-1 lead.
The Hawks got Toews and company right back on the ice to pressure Quick as Chicago held the momentum in the latter stages of the period. The teams skated to the dressing rooms with the Blackhawks up 2-1.
Second Period-The Hawks picked up where they left off in the first minutes of the middle frame. Chicago was effective in the offensive zone, getting off four shots in the first four minutes. Handzus set up Patrick Kane coming down the slot for what was the best scoring chance of the sequence, though Quick handled a pair of attempts.
Back came the Kings, who gained the momentum and tied the game on a shot by Carter right in front of the Chicago net. Taking a feed from a hard working Tanner Pearson, Carter flipped the puck over Crawford’s left pad and into the net at the 8:08 mark.
Pearson was called for a high stick on Duncan Keith at the 11:54 mark to put the Hawks on another power play. Chicago came up with nothing and wasted the opportunity. Shortly after denying the Blackhawks, Los Angeles took its first lead of the contest. Tyler Toffoli got to a loose puck in the neutral zone, beat several Hawks to the net and slipped one under the pad of Crawford to put the Kings up 3-2 14:19 into the period.
The Hawks got a chance to even the score on the power play when Justin Williams caught Nick Leddy with his stick in the corner of the Chicago zone with 4:57 left in the second period. Chicago put some pressure on the Kings PK unit in the final 45 seconds but Quick snuffed out a couple of chances near his net and the Blackhawks came away with nothing for the third time.
Williams went right back to the box after playing a puck with six Kings skaters on the ice, putting Chicago up a man for the remainder of the period. The Blackhawks went into the intermission still on the power play but down 3-2 after 40 minutes.
Third Period-The last ten seconds of power play time quickly expired but Chicago did get a big opportunity in front of Quick. Marian Hossa was turned away by the Kings goalie. Crawford handled a high puck at the other end.
The Hawks committed a turnover that led to Leddy hooking Carter 91 seconds into the period. Chicago was down to four skaters and three sticks for a good 30 seconds of the resulting power play but the Kings were sent away without a goal.
The Blackhawks were on their heels for the first half of the period as Los Angeles kept up the aggressiveness and maintained control of the puck. With 10:05 left in the game, Rozsival was sent to the penalty box for shoving his stick into the face of Kyle Clifford. Chicago killed the penalty but Drew Doughty sent a slap shot past Crawford as Rozsival was coming out of the box. With just over eight minutes left, the Kings went up 4-2.
Having been outshot 12-2 up to this point of the period, the Hawks looked to pick up the offense but found it a tough go as L.A. continued to dominate the action. Crawford was pulled in favor of an extra skater in the 18th minute and coach Joel Quenneville call his timeout with 1:21 to go.
Chicago drew to within a goal with a Patrick Sharp deflection of a Leddy shot with five seconds remaining. However, it wasn’t enough as the Kings captured the win.
Three Stars-Toews (third), Doughty (second), Carter (first).
-This was a frustrating result, though not a surprising one. That is, unless you convinced yourself that a team that is skating in their third straight conference final was just going to roll over when the Hawks took a lead. Chicago played well at times but getting a win in L.A. is going to be tough.
-Someone not named Michal Handzus needs to be in the middle of the second line. I don’t know why that player won’t be Ben Smith, but Q can ice Shaw there if he wants to. Move Kane up to skate with Toews and Bickell, then ice a second line of Hossa, Smith and whoever the aliens have sent down in place of Patrick Sharp.
-Each team scored a special teams goal, though Chicago’s was due to a big effort on the part of Toews and the Kings responded by scoring before that power play expired.
-I’m not jumping of the Corey Crawford train, but Quick has been the better goalie these last two games. Crow was in the right spot on the Toffoli breakaway but got the pad off the ice just enough for the puck to slide under. Right now it appears that Chicago is going to need another Herculean effort from its goalie to take a game in L.A. I believe that can happen because I’ve seen Crawford turn in such efforts in each series this spring.
-If Brandon Bollig can’t skate third-period minutes, why is he in the lineup? Bollig isn’t the Hawks biggest problem at this point of the series but I don’t think he is part of any solution. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Sheldon Brookbank in lieu of Rozsival next time out.
-Shaw was noticeable in his return and could well be a factor in a Game 4 win at the Staples Center. The Hawks get another shot at breaking serve Monday night.