NHL: Blackhawks speed past Kings in Game 1

Room to move, Crawford’s 25 saves give Chicago win

By Chicago Tribune  • 
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Nam Y. Huh | Associated Press
Blackhawks fans cheer and the Kings’ Slava Voynov looks away after Duncan Keith’s tiebreaking goal in the second period.

CHICAGO — Free of the quicksand they had to slog through during the second round against the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks had room to roam against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals — and they used it.

The Blackhawks re-engaged their speed game, recovered after a difficult decision by officials to disallow a goal, and continued to ride red-hot goalie Corey Crawford to defeat the Kings 3-1 yesterday at the United Center and draw first blood in the best-of-seven series.

“It’s nice to have a little space,” Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickell said. “It was getting mentally frustrating in that Minnesota series. (The Kings) kind of have a different style, kind of what we bring with our speed.”

That speed had the Blackhawks looking more like the team that raced to the Stanley Cup championship last season. They solved Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick yesterday with a goal in each period to remain unbeaten at home in the playoffs at 7-0.

Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist, and Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews also scored to provide more than enough offense for Crawford, who made 25 saves. The veteran improved to 9-4 in the postseason with a 1.90 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. Crawford allowed only Tyler Toffoli’s goal.

Except for a momentum-changing call by the officials midway through the second period, the Blackhawks controlled the pace. The Blackhawks led 1-0 after a first-period power-play goal by Saad, and Toews appeared to have given them a two-goal advantage when his shot after a rush to the net was kicked in by Kings defenseman Slava Voynov. The Blackhawks captain sailed into and over Quick, and after much discussion — and a review by the league as to whether the puck crossed the line — officials waved off the goal. It was determined that Toews made incidental contact with Quick that prevented the goalie from making the save.

The Kings tied the score on Toffoli’s goal just over a minute later.

“It’s a momentum swing,” Kings center Mike Richards said. “I’m not sure of the call, but it was fortunate for us.”

The Blackhawks were able to regroup. “You just have to,” said Keith, who scored the winning goal later in the second when his shot from the point deflected off the stick of the Kings’ Trevor Lewis and bounced past Quick. “There was nothing we could do, so just move on and try to play the right way.”

The Blackhawks did, and that meant with some speed to their game, something lacking during the Wild series.

“It wasn’t as restricted, but (the Kings) are a good off-the-rush team. They create rush chances themselves,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We have to respect that, knowing that we don’t want to get into a complete rush game with them, knowing the quality is going to be higher end for them.

“It’s all going to be determined by how well we check. We have to do things quick and quick and quick, whether it’s puck movement or indirect plays.“

Toews sealed the win late in the third on a three-on-one break, converting a terrific no-look pass from Johnny Oduya. “If we’re checking well, we’re playing well on our own side of the puck,” he said. “We can try to create our own chances off of that, try to make them make mistakes. The more we can make them worry about us, the better situation we’ll be in.”

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