The scruff of beards was certainly brushing closely during the first game of the conference finals last Sunday as the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks faced off at the United Center. With a total of four penalties and nearly three scuffles every period, both teams were clearly fighting their hardest for that spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Defenseman Nick Leddy started the Blackhawks off strong with a slap shot in the last seconds of their first power play that was deflected by left wing Brandon Saad past Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick for the first goal of the series. Chicago held off Los Angeles for the rest of the first period.
The Blackhawks strove to keep their momentum early in the second period as Jonathan Towes scored what seemed, at first glance, a legitimate goal. Upon closer review the officials deemed it unacceptable as Towes made contact with the Kings’ goalie before the puck crossed the line. Moments later the Kings, in a two-on-one formation, put one past Cory Crawford for their first goal of the series. It was bound to happen sooner or later that period as the Kings out-shot the Blackhawks 17-6.
Not long after, with just over eight minutes left in the second, the Blackhawks took possession in the neutral zone and defenseman Duncan Keith sent a slap shot tumbling past defenders and bouncing over the left shoulder of Jonathan Quick for their second goal of this battle for the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Kings opened the third period with two power plays but were unable to best the Blackhawks’ defense for a goal with either. Minutes later the Blackhawks were awarded a power play as well. Although they kept the puck in the Kings’ zone for the majority of the two minute penalty, their defense proved too strong as well.
The Blackhawks gave their steadfast fans no reason to fear, however, as Towes drilled one passed Quick’s stick side in a three-on-one drive with less than 4 minutes left in the third period for a 3-1 win. Seconds before the game’s end, announcer Pat Foley put the win in perspective for listeners when he said, “For the first time in franchise history, the Blackhawks will win seven consecutive playoff games in one playoff season.” This Chicago native certainly hopes those wins will continue to pile on.