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Blackhawks take series lead with 3-1 win over Kings

Updated: May 19, 2014 7:33AM



Dustin Brown swooped around the Blackhawks net and lowered his shoulder into Marian Hossa, looking to deliver all the force his 207 pounds could muster late in the third period Sunday afternoon.

It looked like Brown ran into a brick wall — Hossa absorbing the blow and shoving it right back, still standing tall as Brown crashed to the ice on his back. It was a fitting coda to Game 1 of the Western Conference final on Sunday, as the Los Angeles Kings gave a spirited effort some 40 hours after they finished off the Anaheim Ducks, only to see the rested and resilient Hawks shrug it off.

The Hawks were good early, good late, and overcame a controversial disallowed goal to defeat the Kings 3-1, improving to 7-0 at home in these playoffs. Game 2 is Wednesday, back at the United Center.

Considering the circumstances — the Hawks with four days off, the Kings having just flown to Chicago the night before — it was a game the Hawks had to have.

“Any game, you want to have, especially that first one at home,” Bryan Bickell said. “They had that Game 7 — they had that high, but [also] the travel. We were fresh and ready.”

Brandon Saad, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews scored for the Hawks, and Corey Crawford made 25 saves, allowing just one goal for the third straight game.

After slogging their way through the Minnesota Wild’s trap-like system, this one resembled the Hawks’ first-round series against the St. Louis Blues — it was fast, it was physical, and both teams were on the offensive. It also had some of the post-whistle skirmishes that marked the early stages of the Blues series.

Like the Wild, the Kings are tough to score against; they were the stingiest team in the league during the regular season. But unlike the Wild — and unlike the Kings of a year ago, whom the Hawks beat in five games at this same stage of the playoffs — they’re more apt to attack offensively.

It makes for a tougher opponent. But it also makes for a style of play more suitable to the Hawks’ speed and skill.

“It’s a little more comparable to the style we played against St. Louis, a team that plays physical and fast, but at the same time plays offense,” Toews said. “A little different than the Minnesota series. … I think the more we can make them worry about us, the better situation we’ll be in.”

The Kings had plenty to worry about early, as the Hawks dominated the first few minutes, making Los Angeles look a step slow and a bit weary. It took the Kings more than six minutes to get their first shot on goal, but eventually they settled down and started going stride-for-stride with the Hawks.

Still, the Hawks took a 1-0 lead at 14:46 of the first when Brandon Saad deflected Nick Leddy’s shot from the point past Jonathan Quick. They appeared to take a 2-0 lead early in the second when Toews went hard to the net, collided with Quick and the puck slid in off Slava Voynov’s skate. But after it was initially ruled a goal, the officials conferred and disallowed the goal for incidental contact with the goalie. The ruling sent Hawks coach Joel Quenneville into a rage on the bench, and the Kings capitalized barely a minute later when Tyler Toffoli chipped in a nice centering pass from Tanner Pearson.

“We were pretty bummed out about it, but we’re a pretty resilient team,” Leddy said.

That resiliency was tested further as the Kings largely controlled the rest of the period, outshooting the Hawks 17-6, with Crawford bailing them out a few times. The Hawks still managed to take a 2-1 lead when Duncan Keith’s shot from the point — off a nice setup by Saad — deflected off Kings center Trevor Lewis’ stick and bounced past Quick at 11:54.

Toffoli had a golden opportunity to tie it early in the third, as he beat Crawford on a breakaway, but slipped the puck off the post. Then Toews got his goal back, sealing the win on a three-on-one with 3:50 left.

“One goal is not enough,” Toffoli said. “We have to score more than one goal to win a game in the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks.”

Save for the start, Kings coach Darryl Sutter was pleasantly surprised with his team’s effort and energy given the challenging turnaround. And the Hawks certainly were pleased with their total team game — beating Quick three times, shutting down leading-scorer Anze Kopitar’s line, and getting another big performance from Crawford.

But it only gets harder from here. With only one game over the next five days, the Kings will have time to rest up and regroup. Of course, so will the Hawks.

“It was a hard game,” Keith said. “When you get to this level, this stage of the playoffs, I’m pretty sure everybody’s motivated. There’s no excuses on either side.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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