and that’s the final horn. Blackhawks with the lone goal and we hope we don’t need to come back to United Center for awhile.— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 31, 2013
The long recap of last night's game: coming up!
Chicago got on the board first, scoring the game's only goal 7:05 into the game. Because it's nice to blame people rather than to give credit to the opponent, let's go ahead and call out five Kings who we could blame on the play.
- Jake Muzzin should have gotten the puck in deeper as he entered the zone, but he only got it as far as Duncan Keith (a few feet in front of him).
- Dustin Brown should have gotten to the wall to block Keith's flip out of the zone, but he was a step too late.
- A 2-on-1 started the other way, and Matt Greene actually played it beautifully and broke up the pass from Bryan Bickell, but the puck still squirmed through.
- That Greene break-up gave Mike Richards a chance to clear the puck, but his stick went right over it.
- Martin Jones didn't stop Brandon Saad's shot, but let's be real, he had no chance.
Anyway, blame who you want, but Chicago had a 1-0 lead. You don't want to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
Los Angeles played a decent 33 minutes after that goal. They certainly limited the potent Blackhawks offense, and might have earned the smallest bit of gratification out of ending Patrick Kane's 14-game point streak. Plus, they hit people! Colin Fraser knocked Michal Rozsival clean into the NBCSN "between the benches" area; no, Shane Doan did not parachute in to yell at Fraser. Jake Muzzin lit up Jonathan Toews with a totally clean hit in the second; no, the hockey gods did not strike down Muzzin where he stood.
The Kings also controlled the scoring chance battle at even strength. Chicago's main opportunities to extend their lead came on an early second period power play, after Drew Doughty was whistled for what could kindly be called a weak tripping call against Kris Versteeg. Patrick Sharp unleashed a rocket from the point which hit the post high on the far side. The Kings appeared to be in trouble when Chicago continued to press and Slava Voynov cleared the puck over the glass for another penalty. Thankfully, Jones swallowed up a rebound as the 5-on-3 ended, and the Kings allowed no shots on the 5-on-4. The Kings' only second period power play was a trainwreck, and the only good chance came as Jonathan Toews couldn't get a shot off on a break in the other direction.
Aside from those? Mostly Kings in the second. The best chance was a two-part opportunity for Dustin Brown, who took a nice lead pass from Willie Mitchell and split the entire Blackhawks defense by skating down the middle very quickly. Brown was hooked from behind but still forced a save out of Antti Raanta, but the referee awarded a penalty shot. Raanta stopped that one too, as Brown attempted to shoot above Raanta's pad but couldn't get the necessary elevation. The second period would end with an 11-3 advantage in scoring chances at even strength for LA.
Unfortunately, the Kings came out and laid an egg in the third period. A Kings team which should have been desperately pressing for an equalizer was instead hanging on for dear life as the Blackhawks sought a second goal. Martin Jones was at his best, especially on a tremendous sequence of saves on Andrew Shaw five minutes into the third. Shaw nearly got his revenge by tipping a long point shot past Martin Jones on the power play at the ten-minute mark; however, it was waved off. Not a controversial decision at all, given that Shaw was holding his stick like a pitchfork as he tipped it.
LA couldn't take advantage of this reprieve, unfortunately. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Kyle Clifford all had partial breakaways or drives to the front of the net, but none of them were able to get a shot off before Hawks' defensemen foiled them. The final three minutes was a microcosm of the whole frame, as they tried to get an extra attacker on the ice but couldn't even get the puck across the red line. The buzzer soon sounded on a highly frustrating 1-0 loss.
There's a good chance that the road to the Stanley Cup Finals will run through Chicago this season. Put simply, the Kings need to figure out a way to score on them before they have a chance of beating them.