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Physical Hawks outwork Kings in 2-1 series-opening victory

The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after goal against Los Angeles Kings during second period Game 1 NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western

The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals, Saturday, June 1, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: June 2, 2013 5:05PM



Jonathan Quick was doing those things that Jonathan Quick does — bending and lunging and reaching and snatching and just generally confounding the Blackhawks. They directed shot after shot at the Kings’ elastic goaltender, completely dominating play, yet somehow found themselves trailing after one period of Saturday afternoon’s third-round opener, despite a 17-2 shots advantage.

Frustrated?

“No, it’s just the first game,” Hawks winger Marian Hossa said with a laugh. “You can’t get frustrated right away. There’s lots of time for that.”

So the Hawks kept firing away, and eventually put two gritty goals from Patrick Sharp and Hossa behind him. And with the way Corey Crawford and the Hawks defense played — and the way the Kings’ offense continues to struggle — that was enough in a 2-1 victory, as the Hawks drew first blood in the Western Conference final.

It was a bash-and-crash style of game — a physical battle in which the Hawks didn’t get too fancy, instead shooting the puck on net, crashing Quick’s crease and hoping something beautifully ugly happened. The Hawks fired 36 shots at Quick — 31 of them in the first two periods — and nearly matched the bruising Kings hit-for-hit (44-38).

Settle in and get used to it. After all the excitement and speed of the classic seven-game series with the Red Wings, this is what Kings-Hawks is going to look like.

“That’s the way they play, and that’s the way we’re going to have to play, too,” said Hawks winger Patrick Kane, who had a couple of early chances robbed by the pliable Quick. “Fight back a little bit for our space out there.”

Both teams were recently removed from an exhausting Game 7 — the Kings ousting the Sharks on Tuesday, the Hawks beating the Wings on Wednesday — but the Hawks looked like the fresher team early, peppering Quick with shots. At the midway point of the first period, the Hawks had a 9-0 shots advantage. It took nearly 12 minutes for the Kings to fire their first shot on goal.

And when Corey Crawford went behind his net to play a puck with 5:37 left in the first period, the Hawks were up 17-1 in shots. But Crawford’s clearing attempt was blocked by Brad Richardson, and Dave Bolland’s clearing attempt was deflected into the net by Justin Williams, giving the Kings a stunning 1-0 lead.

So the Hawks went into the dressing room up 17-2 in shots, but down 1-0 in goals.

“We liked the way we played,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We exited the bench with a positive approach — keep playing the same way, stick with it.”

And so they did. They kept firing, and kept crashing, and eventually they solved Quick at 12:29 of the second period.

Sharp carried the puck into the offensive zone and left a nice backhanded drop pass for Johnny Oduya, who ripped a shot from the point. Quick gave up a rare juicy rebound, which came right to Sharp in the slot for an easy smack-in and a 1-1 tie.

Less than four minutes later, Hossa made a perfect deflection of Duncan Keith’s blast from the blue line, redirecting the rising slap shot past Quick for a 2-1 lead.

“I don’t know if it’s the be all, end all of our game strategy,” Sharp said of firing away at Quick. “You want to send the puck to the net whenever you can. … He’s going to make those saves on the outside. It’s getting into the inside. It’s out-working their defensemen to get those second and third opportunities.”

Kings coach Darry Sutter shook up his lines in the third period in an effort to wake up his offense, and Los Angeles out-shot the Hawks 8-5 in the third. But the Hawks defense didn’t give up much in the middle of the ice, Crawford made 21 saves, and the Hawks played keep-away on a game-ending power play — after Dave Bolland drew a tripping penalty shortly after his controversial hit to the head of Kings center Mike Richard — to close it out.

It might not have had the intensity and excitement of Game 7, but it had the same recipe for success — and most importantly, the same result.

“It was a huge Game 7, we felt great after the game,” Sharp said. “We tried to carry that momentum into this series and start fast. It feels good to get that first win. But there’s a long way to go.”



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