The Los Angeles Kings lost to the Chicago Blackhawks tonight 4-1. It wasn't pretty. The Blackhawks led early and scored often despite (mostly) terrific goaltending by Jonathan Quick. Dustin Brown fell down a lot. Andrej Sekera may have gotten hurt. Oh, and Vancouver and Calgary both won.
Chicago got things started in the first when Bryan Bickell deflected a Brandon Saad shot past Quick less than six minutes into the game. The Blackhawks threatened to score several more goals in the period, but Jonathan Quick did a good job rebuffing them and Jake Muzzin somehow slid one through Chicago backup goaltender Scott Darling's legs to tie the contest at 1-1 going into the first intermission. This first-period sandwiching of Saad also happened.
The second period didn't go nearly as well for the Kings as the first, though it was the one period in which they led Chicago in possession. After a questionable roughing call against Sekera for his tussle with Kris Versteeg after play had been stopped, the Kings couldn't clear the zone and a Duncan Keith slapshot beat Quick through traffic to put Chicago up 2-1. Sixty-four seconds later—after Mike Richards fell down on defense—Niklas Hjalmarsson sniped the top corner to make it 3-1.
One could make—though probably not win—the argument that Jonathan Quick was the player of the game through two periods despite letting in three goals. Quick made several noteworthy saves and the Kings began to claw back some possession time with effective forechecking, but their scoring chances looked awkward. Seemingly each time the puck closed in on the Blackhawks' net, we were not treated to Marian Gaborik or Jeff Carter knifing through the defense; instead, we watched in irritation as Brown or Trevor Lewis fumbled the puck in front of the net. The Kings didn't mount much of a threat.
In the third period, It was nine or ten minutes of solid Blackhawk possession before the Kings had a real taste of the offensive zone, but, like Brown and Lewis before him, Mike Richards fanned on a close-proximity chance. The Blackhawks finalized the score at 4-1 when a Kings neutral-zone turnover benefited Marian Hossa, who flicked one through Quick for the only bad goal he allowed all night. Game over.
Kings aiming to be the first team that misses the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup.— Jewels frm the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) March 31, 2015
Several tens of thoughts entered my head during this game. Here is a curated selection of them.
A. Was Hawk Harrelson in the booth with Eddie Olczyk for the CSN broadcast tonight? (In all seriousness, though, I can't wait to hear Bob and Jim call the next game.)
2. We don't know enough yet to speculate, but losing Sekera would be just about the worst way to get Brayden McNabb back into the Kings' lineup, wouldn't it?
D. Doesn't it seem like the Kings have allowed their opponents to score an inordinate amount of back-to-back goals in short time spans this season (like the Blackhawks' 64-second pair of goals tonight)?
With Calgary and Vancouver winning tonight, the Kings' playoff window closes a little more. But the Kings still control their destiny and have a good shot at making the playoffs. Or, they probably won't.
Next up for the Kings: Edmonton visits Staples Center on Thursday.