For two periods, it looked like another terrible national TV showing against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Los Angeles Kings were flat, and the Hawks were having their way with the struggling Kings defense. Quick looked a little better, but after being outshot 2-to-1 in the first and second periods, there was no indication that Los Angeles would be able to find a way back into the contest.
Well, the effort got better and the Kings got on the board twice in the third. But two goals from Mike Richards and a late 6-on-4 opportunity couldn't quite overcome the huge hole the Kings were in. The Blackhawks remained undefeated in regulation with a 3-2 win, and the defending champs went down on Hockey Day in America.
The first period was a tour de force for the home team. Brent Seabrook put the Blackhawks on the board after Jonathan Quick lost his stick and Chicago cycled the puck. Duncan Keith eventually delivered a cross-ice pass to Seabrook, who snuck down below the left circle and was totally ignored by Keaton Ellerby and Drew Doughty (who, since you were wondering, was -2 but factored in both PP goals). Seabrook scored into the open net for a 1-0 lead, and it only took four minutes for #2. An irate Darryl Sutter watched as the Kings took a too-many-men penalty, and his mood didn't improve when Keith once again created a goal. A driving Jonathan Toews was the beneficiary of Keith's slap/pass, and though his initial tip effort hit the post and hung on the goal line, he was able to dive and knock the puck in before Quick or Scuderi could get to it.
The Hawks' 2-0 lead at the end of the first did not elicit the best response from Los Angeles; instead, the Blackhawks dominated the second period, throwing 21 shots at Jonathan Quick. Though Quick's first period was underwhelming, he finally looked like the Quick of last year in the latter two periods, and he had no chance on Chicago's third goal. Toews put the puck on net, and with Quick off to the side of the net and (somehow, again) without his stick. Sharp blasted the rebound high into the net. The Kings finally had a Grade-A scoring chance soon after; though Ray Emery was caught out of position after making a save, Jeff Carter's effort at an open net was blocked by Johnny Oduya. The Kings finally found their legs a little bit as the second wound down, but 3-0 was the score after 2.
LA needed a quick goal to have any hope, and when Patrick Sharp hooked Carter 43 seconds in, they took advantage of the ensuing power play. It only took 13 seconds for Doughty and Kopitar to circle the puck to Mike Richards at the point, and he unleashed a slap shot which hit the back of the net over Emery's right shoulder. More good chances followed, and after a 4-on-4 caused by a Patrick Sharp slash and a Jarret Stoll dive, Jonathan Toews snapped Drew Doughty's head back with a high stick. (Or at least, Toews high-sticked Doughty, and Drew's head snapped back. In that order.) The power play once again cashed in after a couple good looks at the net; Doughty made a great blind spinning pass to Mike Richards, and Richards slapped the puck past Emery for his second goal of the period.
The Kings applied further pressure but still couldn't find an even-strength tally, and the ending got dramatic after Jonathan Quick was pulled. Williams crashed into Emery after an LA shot went wide, and the Hawks cleared the puck the other way for an empty-netter. BUT WAIT! Oduya had taken exception to the goaltender contact, and he slashed and punched Williams from behind before the puck was in the opposing net. The Kings had 1:04 to find the tying goal, and though Carter came close on a wrist shot that went just wide, Emery didn't have to make a save in the final minute.
So it was a tale of two halves today. LA saved themselves from embarrassment with their showing in the latter part of the game, but they were still outshot 37-27 and were clearly the second-best team on the ice. Some things to ponder before Tuesday's game at Edmonton...
- The lines have seen plenty of shuffling and conversation... what about the D combinations?
- Which Jonathan goes in net on Tuesday night?
- When will the Hawks lose in regulation? Seriously, it's kind of ridiculous.
- And did NBC do a better job with their coverage today?
Happy Hockey Day in America, everybody, and enjoy the rest of your long weekend.