Chicago's home record in the Stanley Cup playoffs remained impeccable this postseason as the Blackhawks defeated the Kings, 3-1, on Sunday afternoon at United Center behind Brandon Saad's goal and assist and Marian Hossa's two assists in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
The Kings were trying to bring the momentum of their stirring seven-game series against the Ducks to the Midwest, less than 40 hours after finishing off Anaheim.
But the Blackhawks have been a force at home in the playoffs, now 7-0 this postseason.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series will be here on Wednesday.
The lone Kings goal was scored by rookie forward Tyler Toffoli in the second period.
Kings center Anze Kopitar was held off the scoresheet for just the second time in these playoffs. The Blackhawks also held the Kings' Marian Gaborik in check.
Blackhawks 3, Kings 1 (3:50 left in third period)
This time it counted ... for Jonathan Toews.
The Blackhawks took advantage of a three-on-one rush to make it 3-1 late in the third period.
Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin stepped up to make a big hit in the neutral zone, helping create two-man-advantage attack when the Blackhawks gained possession of the loose puck.
Toews finished off a nifty passing play, beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with a shot from the right circle at 16:10. Assisting on the play were Johnny Oduya and Marian Hossa. Hossa has assisted on two of the Blackhawks goals.
Blackhawks 2, Kings 1 (6:00 left in third period)
The Kings have six minutes to try to tie the score, or even take a lead if you're optimistic, but they'll have to generate some more scoring opportunities to do so.
Each team has killed off one minor penalty in the third period. The Kings have only three shots in 14 minutes, though. The Blackhawks aren't getting many more chances, with only five shots in the third.
Less than three minutes into the period, the Kings gained a man advantage when Chicago defenseman Michal Rozsival was sent off for tripping Kings center Mike Richards. At 7:18 of the period, Justin Williams drew a penalty for elbowing Rozsival.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has stopped 16 of 18 shots he's faced so far, while Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has saved 24 of 25.
Blackhawks 2, Kings 1 (end of second period)
There was no shortage of drama in the second period of Game 1 in this Western Conference finals series.
Three goals scored ... and two of them counted.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had a goal disallowed after it was determined by officials that Toews made incidental contact with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick before the puck crossed the goal line.
The Kings tied it, 1-1, just 1 minute 13 seconds after the disallowed goal. Linemates, and rookie forwards, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli continued to display some nice chemistry as Toffoli redirected Pearson's centering pass. Jeff Carter had the second assist on the goal.
Although the Kings held a 17-6 edge in shots in the second period, Chicago took a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Defenseman Duncan Keith's shot got past Quick after it deflected off the sticks of two Kings, Trevor Lewis and Jarret Stoll.
Blackhawks 2, Kings 1 (8:06 left in second period)
The Blackhawks re-established their lead on a fluke play.
Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith's long-range shot deflected off the sticks of not one but two Kings, Trevor Lewis Jarret Stoll, past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
The assists went to Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger. Saad has a hand in both Chicago goals, scoring in the first period.
Kings 1, Blackhawks 1 (explanation for disallowed goal)
Here is the official ruling by the NHL on the disallowed goal earlier in the second period:
"At 3:22 of the second period in the Los Angeles Kings/Chicago Blackhawks game, the referee consulted video review to see if Jonathan Toews' initial shot entered the Los Angeles net. It was determined Toews' initial shot did not enter the net. The referee's original call on the ice was "good goal" but a discussion between the on-ice officials resulted in a "no goal" decision because Toews made incidental contact with Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick before the puck crossed the goal line. This is not a reviewable play therefore the decision on the ice stands -- no goal and no penalty."
Kings 1, Blackhawks 1 (16:28 left in second period)
Talk about a huge shift in momentum in the span of 1 minute 13 seconds.
It had appeared as though Chicago had taken a 2-0 lead at 3:32 of the second period but captain Jonathan Toews' goal was disallowed. It looked like he had made incidental contact with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. But the league did not provide an immediate explanation for the call.
There was plenty of reaction from the Blackhawks' bench, especially Coach Joel Quenneville, who was irate and animated.
The Kings tied the score, 1-1, at 4:35 with some nice work between young forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli.
Toffoli put the puck past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford off a slick centering pass from Pearson. It was Toffoli's fourth goal of the playoffs.
Blackhawks 1, Kings 0 (end of first period)
With one period in the books, Chicago led the Kings, 1-0, in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference finals series on Brandon Saad's power-play goal at 14:46.
Chicago outshot the Kings, 7-5, in the opening 20 minutes.
The first period was always going to be a tough one for the Kings, considering they had less than 40 hours to get ready for the Blackhawks after winning Game 7 against the Ducks on Friday night at Anaheim in the second round of the playoffs.
Center Mike Richards had the best scoring chance for the Kings late in the period but was thwarted by a back-checking Nick Leddy.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty led everyone in ice time in the first period at 9 minutes 18 seconds.
Blackhawks 1, Kings 0 (5:14 left in first period)
The Kings were only seconds away from killing the first penalty in the Western Conference finals when the Blackhawks scored on a redirected shot.
Brandon Saad, screening Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, tipped defenseman Nick Leddy's shot from above the circle into the net. Marian Hossa created the scoring play by digging out the puck along the boards, and got the second assist by passing to Leddy.
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez was sent off for roughing against Chicago winger Brandon Bollig at 12:48.
There aren't many surprises in the playoffs, but the Kings managed to pull off a mild one.
Injured defenseman Willie Mitchell returned for Game 1 on Sunday at United Center, his first action since suffering a leg-muscle injury on April 28. That was during Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks. The Kings have missed his steadiness and his penalty-killing abilities.
With Mitchell back in the lineup, that meant veteran defenseman Matt Greene was a healthy scratch.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter had indicated that Mitchell might return at some point during the series against the Blackhawks but didn't tip his hand. This is, after all, the playoffs.
"He skated yesterday, he skated today," Sutter said on Saturday. "When the doctors and the trainer and Willie come and tell me he's ready, I'm open to that. That's the way it works. He didn't play for us last year. He didn't play Game 7 against San Jose. He didn't play Game 7 against Anaheim.
"The kids we put in, Jeff Schultz came in the lineup, has done a really good job for us. Sort of a playoff circle. Guys go out, guys come in. Sometimes they fulfill the prophecy, sometimes they don't."
The Los Angeles Kings are playing in the Western Conference finals for the third consecutive year, and this time it's a rematch against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs and went on to win the 2013 Stanley Cup.
When the Kings marched to the Stanley Cup title in 2012, they polished off the Phoenix Coyotes in five games in the conference finals. Last season, the Blackhawks won the conference finals in five games, needing double overtime in Game 5 in Chicago to clinch it against L.A.
The Kings staved off elimination six times this postseason, falling behind the San Jose Sharks three games to none before sweeping the next four to earn a first-ever playoff meeting against the Anaheim Ducks in the conference semifinals.
The Ducks dropped the first two games on their home ice to the Kings, who then proceeded to lose three consecutive games before pulling out victories in the sixth and seventh games to advance to their meeting with the Blackhawks.
Veteran defenseman Drew Doughty believes the Kings are a more complete club this season with an infusion of young talent like defenseman Jake Muzzin plus the addition of veteran forward Marian Gaborik.
"I think we're a better team this year than last year," Doughty said Saturday. "We've got D-men like Muzz, who is playing a lot better than he was last year.
"Gabby has been a huge fit to this team. He's produced a lot of points and helped us a lot offensively, and putting him with [Kopitar] is great."
Then there's young forwards such as Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who have helped ramp up the offense for a team known for its defense.
Can the upgraded Kings give the defending Stanley Cup champions a series? The first clue will be known in a few hours at the conclusion of Game 1.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun