By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks dug down for some extra giddyup Monday night, subduing a more rested Los Angeles Kings squad at the United Center. The Blackhawks posted wins in back to back games, following up Sunday’s win in Winnipeg with a 4-1 besting of the defending champs.
First Period-Goalies Scott Darling and Jonathan Quick were on their toes early as the action was back and forth. Brandon Saad was denied by the Kings keeper on a power move around the net in the fifth minute. A few seconds later, the young forward was the catalyst for the Hawks first goal.
Saad got control of his own dump-in at the end boards, came around the net into the slot and fired at the L.A. goal. The puck was redirected by Bryan Bickell and then glanced off Bickell’s skate. Tumbling past Quick and into the Kings goal, Chicago took a 1-0 lead 5:31 into the game.
Anze Kopitar looked to be on his way to an odd man rush midway through the period but Niklas Hjalmarsson made a nice play to strip him of the puck. Quick left a couple of rebounds out in front of his net for the Hawks fourth line but Marcus Kruger and Teuvo Teravainen weren’t able to finish the scoring opportunity.
Saad was hooked by Robyn Regehr with 6:25 to go in the opening period when he powered into the Kings zone with Bickell on his left side. Quick made a nice play on a Marian Hossa slap shot and kept Jonathan Toews from doing anything with the rebound. Chicago had to hustle in order to prevent a couple of shorthanded rushes by Los Angeles. Just after the power play expired, Quick had to knock away a shot by Antoine Vermette.
With 1:40, Saad was sandwiched between Drew Doughty and Kyle Clifford. Doughty’s hit resulted in Saad making head to head contact with Clifford. Saad hit the ice hard and was taken to the locker room early.
In the final minute of play, Darling allowed a soft goal that allowed the Kings to go into the intermission all even. Jake Muzzin was just trying to get the puck to the net from the left half boards for a possible redirect. However, the skidding puck got cleanly through Darling’s wicket and into the net. Despite outshooting L.A. 16 to 10, the game was tied at a goal apiece after 20 minutes.
Second Period-The Blackhawks got an early power play when Andrej Sekera was called for roughing Kris Versteeg. Duncan Keith buried a shot from up top that made rubber and twine as one to put Chicago up 2-1 1:37 into the middle frame.
Shortly thereafter, Patrick Sharp got off a shot that got past Quick. It struck the crossbar and failed to go in, but soon after Hjalmarsson got control of the puck, walked it into the slot and fired past Quick to give Chicago a 3-1 advantage at the 2:41 mark.
The roof nearly blew off the United Center when Teravainen was sprung for a breakaway not long after Hjalmarsson’s goal. Quick sent the rookie’s attempt into the corner to prevent the third Hawks goal in as many minutes.
Saad was back on the ice in the second period. Perhaps in response to the Malachi crunch in the previous period, Chicago kicked up the physical play with big hits by Andrew Shaw, Vermette and Johnny Oduya.
Kruger was called for a high stick of Muzzin with 7:12 gone in the period to give the Kings a chance to dig into the lead with a man advantage. The Hawks killed the penalty and the hits continued from both sides.
Quick had to make an unexpected save of Oduya’s bouncing shot after a nice hold in the Kings zone in the 15th minute. Los Angeles came down the ice and got a couple shots that Darling fended off. The last five minutes of the period were played at a frantic pace, though neither team was able to find the net before the intermission.
Third Period-Sharp gathered in a loose puck in the L.A. zone and nearly extended the Hawks lead in the second minute but for a big stop by the left pad of Quick. Chicago spent a lot of time at the Kings end of the ice early in the final period. Sharp got another great look at the back of the Los Angeles net in the sixth minute but couldn’t get the puck over the prone Quick.
Darling had to make a big stop of his own on a shot by Dustin Brown in the eighth minute as the Kings began to come forward in an effort to generate some offense. Los Angeles got the puck to the net on occasion but the Hawks prevented the second chance opportunities.
Hossa got his stick on a pass just outside the Kings zone. He skated to the left circle and snuck a tumbling puck under the arm of Quick to put Chicago up 4-1 at the 13:06 mark of the period. This pretty much ended the Kings bid to get back into the contest.
Three Stars-Saad (third), Oduya (second), Keith (first).
-Darling recovered from his gaffe to stop 31 of 32 shots by the Kings. It was good that he was able to shake off Muzzin’s centering attempt that five-holed him so badly.
-Chicago needed to post a big effort and came through with flying colors Monday night. To watch this game, you’d have thought the Hawks were the team sitting in Chicago waiting for the Kings to arrive instead of the other way around.
-The fourth line didn’t score but created some offensive chances and had themselves a solid evening. Hjalmarsson and Oduya were dominant once again.
-Saad seemed none the worse for wear after getting roughed up late in the first. There was a steady physical element throughout the contest despite the Blackhawks being outhit 41-23 by L.A.
-The Kings also outdrew Chicago 37-28 but it was easy to brush that dominance aside as there weren’t many times where Los Angeles put sustained pressure on Darling.
-The Canucks come to call Thursday night. Remember when this was a rivalry? Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.