Blackhawks jump out to 2-0 series lead with 4-2 win
As of tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks have now won five straight games in the playoffs. It's not the same streak as the one that started the season, but it's certainly one that they'll take, because it means they're off to a 2-0 start in the Western Conference Final.
It didn't take long for the Blackhawks to score in game 2; Andrew Shaw dented the twine just 1:56 into the first. The Blackhawks took two penalties during the period, but the Kings couldn't convert, even while outshooting Chicago 13-9. Brent Seabrook hammered in a second goal with 51 seconds remaining in the first to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
Los Angeles never caught up. Bryan Bickell put in a power play goal, followed up by Michal Handzus's goal just two minutes later in the middle of the second.
The Los Angeles Kings haven't allowed more than three goals in a playoff game since April 25, 2011, a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks. That streak - 34 games - came to an end tonight as the Blackhawks put four behind Jonathan Quick, and chased the Conn Smythe winner from his net. Jonathan Bernier came in as relief, and did not allow another goal for the rest of the game.
At the other end of the ice, Corey Crawford allowed two or less goals for the 10th time in fourteen playoff games this season. Crawford now improves to .938 sv% and a skimpy 1.67 GAA for the playoffs thus far.
Jeff Carter finally broke the shutout for the Kings by scoring with 1:03 left in the second.
As expected, the game was much chippier than the first game, and things began unraveling a touch in the third. Kings center Colin Fraser gave a shot to Jonathan Toews. Chicago defenseman Michal Rozsival tackled Fraser, which began a scrum in front of Crawford's net. Kyle Clifford jumped in, hacking away at Rozsival, and when Jonathan Toews went to pull Clifford off his teammate, Clifford got a few punches in towards Toews. At that point, Crawford leapt into action, grabbing Clifford around the head and neck to get him off Toews.
After the game, Crawford said, "Their guy grabbed him and got a couple of free shots, so I figured it was enough, and I decided to go in there, and grab his head."
The Kings managed one more goal, a Tyler Toffoli power play goal with 1:02 remaining in the third. It is just the second PPG that the Blackhawks have allowed this post-season, bringing their PK to 95.7% (2 in 47).
Despite a much better effort from the Kings than Saturday afternoon's game, the Blackhawks were still more dominant, and they'll be taking a 2-0 series lead into Los Angeles. They know the Kings will bring their best efforts at home; Los Angeles has been undefeated at home this post-season, going 7-0 so far. Also, the Kings started off down 0-2 versus the St. Louis Blues in the semi-finals, and bounced back.
The Blackhawks know there are still five games left in the series, and are not about to take the lead or their opponent's play to date for granted. The Kings amped their physicality, outhitting Chicago 46-36 in Sunday's game, and combined that with their usual ferocious forecheck. They even managed to outshoot Chicago in the game, 31-26, plus an additional 27 attempts blocked and missed shots to the Blackhawks' 15.
Corey Crawford once again proved he was up to the task. His stats against the Kings so far this series is .943 sv% and 1.5 GAA. Is he feeling a little competitive against Jonathan Quick, who is widely regarded as one of the best goalies in the world?
“You want to beat the guy on the other side, obviously. My focus is more on their players, but I definitely want to beat him," Crawford said after the game.
On Tuesday night, we'll find out if the Kings can hold their home ice advantage.
Game 3: Tuesday, June 4 at 8:00 p.m. CDT/6:00 p.m. PDT, Staples Center, 1111 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Broadcast info: NBCSN, TSN, RDS; Chicago FM 97.9.
Three stars: 1) Patrick Sharp; 2) Brandon Saad; 3) Corey Crawford