Blackhawks Beat Kings To Take 2-0 Lead In Series
JAY COHEN,AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — There’s a sign in the hallway that runs from the home locker room to the ice at the United Center. It says “EARN IT,” and it was sure hard to argue that the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t done just that during an impressive start to the Western Conference finals.
Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus scored on consecutive shots in the second period, and Chicago chased goalie Jonathan Quick on its way to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 on Sunday night.
Andrew Shaw and Brent Seabrook also scored as the rolling Blackhawks grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with their fifth consecutive victory. Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad had two assists apiece, and Corey Crawford made 29 saves in another solid performance.
“It’s a high-speed game. If we use our speed, we’ll be all right,” Shaw said. “We played our game. That’s the difference. The guys played good. We all competed for each other. We did everything we needed to do, keeping it deep in the zone.”
Game 3 is Tuesday night at Los Angeles, where the Kings have won 14 consecutive games dating to the regular season. The Kings also lost their first two games of the playoffs at St. Louis before winning four straight to eliminate the Blues in the first round.
Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli had goals for Los Angeles, but the Kings struggled to score without Mike Richards, who was scratched because of an undisclosed upper body injury. The defending Stanley Cup champions have 29 goals in 15 postseason games.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of playing our game,” Los Angeles defenseman Robyn Regehr said. “First of all, we’ve got to be really clean coming out of our zone, make good short little plays and support one another. Once we do that, we’ll do a better job coming out of the neutral zone, because these guys really rely on turnovers.”
Richards, who leads the Kings with 10 playoff points, was sidelined after taking a big hit from Dave Bolland in the final minutes of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory on Saturday.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Richards was “fine” a couple of hours before the game, but the center was scratched from the lineup after participating in pregame warm-ups.
“I think just once his blood got pumping tonight, the adrenaline got going, there were symptoms,” Sutter said. “I went in right after warm-up, he was sitting there and I said, ‘Unless you’re 100 percent, you’re not playing.'”
The series took on a more physical tone in the second game in two days — a playoff rarity brought on by The Rolling Stones’ tour.
The top-seeded Blackhawks also won the series opener in each of the first two rounds, but they dropped three in a row following their Game 1 victory against Detroit in the conference semifinals.
There was no such letdown this time.
“This time of year you try to carry momentum as long as you can,” Sharp said. “Every game presents different challenges. We felt great about coming back in that Detroit series. Game 7 was a huge high for us. That seems like a long time ago now. We’re past that and we’re focused on the Kings.”
Shaw got Chicago off to a fast start, taking a nifty pass from Viktor Stalberg and beating Quick on the glove side just 1:56 into the game. Marian Hossa set up Seabrook in the final minute of the period for a low liner into the left corner of the net. The defenseman put the Blackhawks into this round with an overtime goal against Detroit on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks added two more in the second, separated by just 2:09. Bickell scored a power-play goal on a rebound in front, and Handzus skated in and beat Quick to make it 4-0 at 9:20.
“We gave them too many Grade-A scoring chances, and they capitalized,” Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “You can’t give up those opportunities and expect your goalie to bail you out every single time.”
The crowd of 21,824 roared after Handzus’ second goal of the postseason, and cheered even louder when Quick skated off and was replaced by Jonathan Bernier. Quick, last year’s playoff MVP had played every minute of this year’s playoffs. He finished with 13 saves.
Carter converted a one-timer at 18:57 of the second, and Toffoli netted a power-play goal with 1:02 left in the game, but that was it for Los Angeles.
“You’ve got to find a way,” Quick said. “They did their job at home. We’ve got to go home and do our job now.”
The Blackhawks killed three other power plays and have allowed just two goals in 47 attempts in the playoffs.
Crawford heard chants of “Co-rey! Co-rey!” after he stopped Dustin Penner on a quality opportunity late in the second, and the salute resumed when he pulled Kings forward Kyle Clifford off Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews during a scrum with 8:45 left.
“The guy grabbed him, got a couple free shots. I figured it was enough,” Crawford said. “I just decided to go in there and grab his head.”
Crawford was one of the top goalies in the NHL during the lockout-shortened regular season, and he has carried that into the playoffs. He has allowed just one goal in four of his last six games.
“He’s the guy we want in net back there,” Sharp said. “He’s proven it in the past. It’s nice to see him finally get the credit that he deserves.”
NOTES: Kings rookie D Jake Muzzin was scratched after playing in the first 14 postseason games. … Crawford was 1-1 with a 3.54 goals-against average against Los Angeles during the regular season. … Regehr was hit by a puck during warm-ups and had to get several stitches on his head.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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