The Chicago Blackhawks extended their winning streak to four games with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings that was more lopsided than the score line suggests in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday.
It was virtually start-to-finish dominance for the Blackhawks, who boasted a 36-22 advantage in shots on goal and used a big second period to secure Game 1.
The Blackhawks dominated the first period, due in small part to the Kings having to kill off two penalties early on. L.A. struggled to put its pucks on net when in the offensive zone as well, with its first shot on goal coming 12 minutes into the game.
But it was luck that struck for the Kings at 14:23 when a puck bounced off the skate of Justin Williams and dropped in the net for the first goal of the series (via Jesse Spector of Sporting News).
GOAL: Corey Crawford’s save percentage falls to .500 as Game 7 hero Justin Williams scores for the Kings with 5:37 left in the first period.— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) June 1, 2013
Haven't we seen this movie before with these #LAKings? They get outplayed, outplayed, Quick saves them, then they score. 1-0 LA— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) June 1, 2013
It wasn't the best period of the Kings' playoff run by any means, but they still found themselves leading, to the surprise of Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles.
Someway, somehow the Kings will enter the 2nd period with a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 17-2. #Quick— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 1, 2013
The Kings continued to get outworked by the home team in Game 1, as Chicago found many more scoring chances and opportunities offensively. It took over after the first intermission, attacking Jonathan Quick early and often but to no avail, as last year's Stanley Cup playoffs MVP shut the door time after time.
Chicago desperately needed to get in the scoring column in the second period, and it finally got one past Quick when Patrick Sharp converted a rebound in the slot to tie things up at 1-1, making Sharp the league leader in 2013 playoff goals.
Sharp jumps on the rebound which is how they have to get to Quick on second chances. Sharps with league-leading 8th goal of the playoffs— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 1, 2013
The red-hot Blackhawks continued to produce at 16:22 of the second, as Marian Hossa redirected a Duncan Keith slap shot from the point into the net. The goal took the roof off the United Center as the home team inched closer to a fourth straight victory.
After two periods of action in Chicago, the Presidents' Trophy winners went into the locker room with a commanding 2-1 lead against the NHL's hottest goaltender.
Hawks dominant for 40....and lead by 1.— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 1, 2013
The speed difference was noticeable between the two teams, as the Blackhawks proved to have fresher legs, and ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross was quick to point it out.
Biiig speed advantage for Hawks. Not sure Kings can play at this pace. We knew Hawks were faster but, wow. Quick needs to be other worldly— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) June 1, 2013
The Kings finally turned things around offensively in the third period after the Blackhawks completely stifled L.A. through the first 40 minutes.
They put the pressure on when Chicago's Nick Leddy got two minutes for tripping at 7:19, but Corey Crawford stood tall and prevented the Kings from notching an equalizer on the power play. NHL.com writer Dan Rosen pointed out a crazy statistic about Chicago's penalty kill.
Blackhawks kill off Leddy's minor to improve to 42-for-43 on the PK in the playoffs.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) June 1, 2013
Los Angeles threw the kitchen sink at Crawford in the final five minutes, but it wasn't enough, as the Blackhawks continued to shut down the puck every time the Kings made it into the offensive zone. When Jeff Carter went to the box with less than two minutes left, L.A. was out of chances.
ESPN Stats & Info outlined just how dominant the Blackhawks have been of late.
Blackhawks take 1-0 series lead on Kings, are 13-1-2 in past 16 home games; have won 9 straight playoff series with home-ice advantage— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 1, 2013
It'll be a short rest cycle for the players, as the puck drops for Game 2 Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. But after four straight wins, the Blackhawks look as solid as they ever have despite Quick being on his game.
The Kings will have to find offense somewhere if they want to have a chance in Game 2.