BLACKHAWKS 4, KINGS 3
BLACKHAWKS 1 1 2 — 4
Los Angeles 1 1 1 — 3
First Period—1, Los Angeles, Handzus 5 (J.Johnson, Martinez), 4:28. 2, HAWKS, Hossa 9 (Kopecky, Sharp), 18:42 (pp). Penalties—Sharp, HAWKS (slashing), 2:27; Bickell, HAWKS (hooking), 9:04; Scuderi, LA (interference), 17:40.
Second Period—3, HAWKS, Sharp 22 (Kane, Toews), 7:11 (pp). 4, Los Angeles, Smyth 15 (Williams), 18:17. Penalties—Kopitar, LA (delay of game), 6:41; Williams, LA (interference), 14:16.
Third Period—5, HAWKS, Sharp 23 (Kopecky), 4:27. 6, Los Angeles, Smyth 16 (J.Johnson, Kopitar), 12:42 (pp). 7, HAWKS, Toews 16, 14:33. Penalties—HAWKS bench, served by Kane (too many men), 7:59; Keith, HAWKS (delay of game), 10:02; Toews, HAWKS (high-sticking), 11:39; Williams, LA (holding), 16:05.
Shots on Goal—HAWKS 6-12-10—28. Los Angeles 13-5-11—29. Power-play opportunities—HAWKS 2 of 4; Los Angeles 1 of 5.
Goalies—HAWKS, Crawford 12-7-1 (29 shots-26 saves). Los Angeles, Quick 18-10-1 (28-24).
Referees—Chris Lee, Dan O’Halloran. Linesmen—Lonnie Cameron, Don Henderson.
A—17,916 (18,118). T—2:25.
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
LOS ANGELES — Jonathan Toews wasn’t about to make a prediction about the Blackhawks’ playoff prospects, but he came close Monday at the Staples Center.
“It’s crazy to think we’re the type of team that’s not going to be there at the end of the year,” the Hawks’ captain said. “That’s ridiculous.
“We want to stay healthy, and we hope things keep getting better from here on. We’re going to stay optimistic. We’d all be pretty disappointed at the end of the year — knowing what we have in this locker room — if we can’t accomplish our goal of doing that.
“It’s a long season, and we’re going to keep improving as the season goes along.”
That being said, the Hawks are 41 games into their title defense, and Toews knows the Hawks have a lot of catching up to do.
The 4-3 victory Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings was a good start as the defending champions embark on a tough road with several teams battling for their playoff lives in a crowded Western Conference field.
The Hawks will need similar efforts to continue what took place against the Kings. They were able to overcome a slow start and late penalty problems to sweep the Kings this season. The Hawks made their share of mistakes, but they were finally able to find that key third-period goal that has eluded them.
Patrick Sharp scored twice and had an assist, Toews scored the game-winner and Marian Hossa also scored as the Hawks ended their three-game losing streak and got two much-needed points.
Corey Crawford (26 saves) was big in net again, including a huge save on Anze Kopitar with 14.4 seconds left to preserve the lead.
Toews scored 14:33 into the third when Drew Doughty’s clearing attempt deflected off him and past Jonathan Quick (24 saves).
“That’s bad luck,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “It almost went off Quick’s head when it came off the crossbar. I guess when you’re the Stanley Cup champions, you get lucky breaks like that. We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position.”
“It’s finding ways to win the game,” Sharp said. “You saw a lot of individual battles, and our compete level was a lot higher than it has been in the past. A win’s a win, and we’ll take it.”
The Hawks’ top-ranked power play helped them overcome their slow start. The Kings outshot them 13-6 in the first, but the Hawks went 2-for-4 with the advantage.
A sweep of the Kings shows what the Hawks are capable of achieving.
“That’s big for us,” said Toews, who returned to the lineup after sitting out the last two games with an injured right shoulder. “It just goes to show what we can do against good teams. That’s a talented team, and they’re smart and a well-coached team, too.
“We played smart for the most part, but there were still some mistakes and giveaways. We’re giving up some unearned scoring chances. We just have to be smarter that way, and we’ll be more comfortable going into the third period.”
It has been the third period where the Hawks have struggled. They’ve left a lot of points on the table in the first half of the season by blowing leads or failing to get games to overtime.
The Hawks committed three consecutive penalties in the third, and the Kings tied it at 3 on Ryan Smyth’s second goal of the game — a power-play goal at 12:42 in the third. But the Hawks managed to get the deciding goal thanks to Toews being in the right place at the right time.
“It was a necessary win — a huge win for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Now it’s forward onto the second part of the season.”