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Blackhawks get jump on Kings

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The best way to beat Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is to distract him, and that's exactly what the Chicago Blackhawks did in Saturday's Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference Finals.

Using a game plan that leaned heavily to tips and deflections, the Blackhawks took a one-game lead to start the best-of-seven series, beating the Kings 2-1 at the United Center.

"(Quick) challenges, he comes out," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's the next one (shot or rebound) you have to hope for.

"You want to make sure he has to look through something to find it. ... We know if he sees it, we're going to have a hard time."

Chicago's goals, both in the second period, came on less than conventional plays by Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.

"We had some Grade-A chances, but I think the second chances are the ones we got in," said Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook, whose winning overtime goal on Wednesday night against Detroit advanced the Blackhawks to the third round of the playoffs.

"I think we need to get inside, look for second and third opportunities. Hopefully, we can get that and rack 'em a little more," Seabrook said.

After the Kings jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Justin Williams at 14:23, Sharp, who has become the Blackhawks' most prolific scorer in the playoffs, tied the score at 12:29 with his league-leading eighth goal of the postseason.

A shot by Chicago's Johnny Oduya bounced off the left pad of Quick, and Sharp was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on the rebound and tie the score 1-1.

Less than four minutes later, Duncan Keith's slap shot bounced off Hossa, who quickly turned and slipped the loose puck past Quick for his sixth goal of the playoffs and the winner.

"Those guys scored big goals for us today," Quenneville said. "We like their consistency, their production. Today, you could talk about every player's contribution to the team game. That's what we're going to need and what we look forward to."

Added Hossa, "I saw the puck coming and just tried somehow to touch the puck. Obviously, it's one of those goals when the puck goes your way. I just steered my stick going to the other way and tricked the goalie."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter made it clear that he was not happy with his team's feeble shooting and shot selection, including being outshot 17-2 in the first period.

"We have guys that have to score goals," Sutter said. "We could have tied it up late, similar to other road games we've played, quite honestly. It's another 2-1 game.

"The way some guys were playing, we just had trouble keeping up."

Chicago has now won its last four games in the postseason, including the rally from a 3-1 series deficit in the semifinals against Detroit.

"We went through adversity when we were down 3-1," Hossa said. "We did a lot of good things coming back and that definitely helped the confidence. That allowed us to put more of a strong thing together."

The Kings, even though they defeated San Jose in the semis to advance, have lost four of their past six playoff games, which is certainly not a harbinger of good things to come.

"We didn't have our best game and we have to be better tomorrow," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "We salvaged something out of that (first) period. That was it, about all you could. But like I said, we just have to regroup for tomorrow."

Right now, though, the Blackhawks are riding a streak of four straight wins -- momentum that is going to be hard for the Kings to stop.

"It's always great when you win the first game and especially back-to-back, it gives you a little momentum," Hossa said. "I felt like we did a lot of good things today and we know we have to be better tomorrow and keep doing those things."

In both the opening and final periods, Los Angeles appeared as if it was lost at times, or at the very least suffering some serious jet lag.

That lack of spirit gave Chicago numerous opportunities for shots without the Kings mounting much of a defensive presence. The only saving grace for LA was Quick, who turned away 34 of the Hawks' 36 shots on goal in a game that Chicago outshot LA 36-22, including that massive 17-2 edge in the first period.

Even though the Kings lost the series opener, Quick remains the toughest goalie in the playoffs, having stopped 396 of 418 shots for a league-best .947 save percentage and a 1.54 goals-against average.

Quick's Chicago counterpart, Corey Crawford, has now stopped 337 of 359 shots during the first three playoff rounds for a .939 save percentage and 1.65 GAA.

Ironically, while both the Kings and Hawks are known for playing more of a finesse game, the Blackhawks were clearly the aggressors for much of the match, acting as if they were still playing the Red Wings.

"It's always good when you have a little momentum," Hossa said. "So we did lots of things I think really good, especially defensively, and we hope to keep doing it."

Kings center Colin Fraser hopes for a different outcome in Game 2.

"I don't really know what the answer is, but we definitely have to be better for sure," Fraser said. "They got the better of us tonight.

"Obviously, we came out probably a little bit flat and they were throwing lots of pucks on net. I think we turned too many pucks over.

"I think we have to get back to maybe a simpler game, try to take their speed away from them with that. If we start doing that, we're going to get more chances in the offensive zone and hopefully score more goals."

Added Seabrook, "I know (the Kings are) going to be better tomorrow, but if we keep playing them the way we did, it's going to be pretty hard to beat us."

NOTES: This is only second time the Hawks have met the Kings in the playoffs. They also met in the 1974 quarterfinals, which the Hawks won 4-1. Chicago won this year's regular season series 2-1. ... Sutter both played for (1979-87) and coached (1992-95) the Blackhawks. Sutter was fired after the lockout-shortened season in 1995, even though he took the Hawks to the third round of the playoffs after losing in the first round in each of the previous two seasons. ... Center Jarrett Stoll returned to the Kings' lineup after missing the last two weeks with an injury. Sutter's assessment of Stoll's first game back was straightforward: "It's not just putting Jarret Stoll in the lineup. Jarret Stoll has to give us a quality performance in terms of what his role is on our team. I think it showed that he'd been out for a couple weeks." ... Because of United Center scheduling issues with Monday's Rolling Stones concert, there's a quick turnaround for Game 2, which takes place Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. The series moves to Los Angeles for Games 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday. If necessary, Game 5 is back in Chicago on Saturday. ... Attendance was 21,535.
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