Game One Recap: Kings Run Out of Steam in 3-1 Loss

Jonathan Daniel

The first game of the Western Conference Finals lives up to its billing, but the Kings fall short.

The Los Angeles Kings aren't necessarily an underdog in this series, even if Darryl Sutter will tell you they are. However, with just over 36 hours of rest and a hostile arena to play in, the Kings were definitely underdogs in Game 1. Though the game had plenty of twists, the end result was pretty predictable: a loss, despite a good effort, to the Chicago Blackhawks.

[Box Score] [Additional Statistics]

The Blackhawks controlled the play in the early going; in fact, it took 6:30 for Slava Voynov to get the Kings' first shot on Corey Crawford. The Kings didn't look terrible, and some players (Mike Richards, notably) were able to at least make the Blackhawks step back a bit in the early going. However, a terrible penalty 12:48 into the game set Chicago up for the game's first goal. Why terrible? Well, depends on who you ask. Either Alec Martinez showed a lack of discipline when he shoved Brandon Bollig after the whistle... or the referee fell for an egregious dive on the play by Bollig. (Luc Robitaille was among those who thought it was the latter.)

Regardless, the Blackhawks took advantage of zone time and some sloppy defensive play to score, as Brandon Saad tipped in a point shot by Nick Leddy. The Kings' failed clearing attempts (primarily by Jeff Schultz) cost them, and Los Angeles went into the first intermission down 1-0. The Kings responded well to their deficit, getting more than three times as many shots in the second (17) as they did in the first (5). It might not have mattered if an apparent goal by Jonathan Toews had counted; however, his initial shot was stopped, and he ran over Jonathan Quick before the puck glanced in off of Voynov.

(More on that review... The play was initially ruled a goal on the ice, but the referees huddled up and decided to disallow it right after that. Hardly anyone noticed. They reached out to Toronto to confirm that the interference had occurred prior to the goal, but when the call was announced as no goal, it appeared that the referees were overturning it then and there. That wasn't the case, which was good, because that would've been, well, odd. Back to the recap!)

As such, the disallowed goal changed the complexion of the game, especially when Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli connected to tie the game. Jeff Carter played the puck ahead along the boards, Pearson's speed beat Nick Leddy around the corner, and when Bollig missed his assignment, Toffoli was alone to receive the pass to the front. Toffoli tapped the puck in to make it 1-1, and it looked like the Kings were in position to take control of the game. Justin Williams and Kyle Clifford had a great chance on a 2-on-1 denied, and Marian Gaborik's shot on an Anze Kopitar feed was denied by Crawford.

So it was deflating when Duncan Keith's shot took an absurd deflection off of the stick of Trevor Lewis and beat Quick up high. When was the last time you saw a puck hit a stick 30 feet out, bounce downward, and then find the top corner of the net? It was a rough break, but after the earlier chances for LA, Chicago had already begun dictating the pace again before that goal. The end of the second period and the beginning of the third period brought two power play opportunities, but the best remaining chance for LA was on a Tyler Toffoli breakaway. Toffoli got a perfect pass from Mike Richards and beat Leddy, but after successfully deking Crawford, Toffoli hit the post.

The Kings simply couldn't get anything going over the game's final 15 minutes, and when they pressed forward with four minutes to go, Chicago made them pay for a bad offensive zone possession. Jake Muzzin pinched in to prevent Bryan Bickell from exiting the zone, but the puck kept going, and Anze Kopitar tripped over Bickell on his way back. Johnny Oduya, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews all headed up the ice against Drew Doughty, and Doughty did what he could, but Toews one-timed Oduya's pass past Quick.

That pretty much settled things. Two wins in Chicago would have been fantastic, but a split would be great; the Kings just need to do what they did during the second period in the second game and they might just end Chicago's seven-game home winning streak.

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