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For Blackhawks, series against Kings takes dramatic turn

Los Angeles KingsSportsIce HockeyChicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks lose their first postseason game, 6-2
Kings quickly turn 2-0 deficit to 3-2 lead with power-play goals early in third period

In one stunning 5-minute 50-second span Wednesday night at the United Center, confidence quickly became a concern for the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Kings assumed command of the Western Conference finals.

The impact of that flurry could last much longer.

This was no way for the Blackhawks to prove home ice won't matter in this series, losing their first postseason game there in a 6-2 blowout that shook a hockey city to its core.

The Kings turned a 2-0 deficit near the end of the second period into a 3-2 lead early in the third after Chicago experienced something between a letdown and a meltdown that included two regrettable penalties. The rest of the scoring came against a Blackhawks team that didn't know what hit it.

With Wayne Gretzky sitting in a suite with Blackhawks legends, the Kings scored five goals in a period for the first time since the Great One was playing for them, on May 7, 1993. And, surprisingly, they did it with Gretzky-like ease.

The comeback that ruined Chicago's week started with a dirty goal. With 1:46 left in the second, veteran center Mike Richards threw the puck to the front of the net, where Justin Williams had fought for position with Michal Handzus. The puck slithered past goalie Corey Crawford for the Kings' first goal. It came a few minutes after Kings goalie Jonathan Quick regained some momentum by making his biggest save of the game, stopping Brent Seabrook on a two-on-one.

After that, everything changed. Just 97 seconds into the third, the reinvigorated Kings struck again with a power-play goal. Jeff Carter tipped in a Drew Doughty shot to tie the score. Then Jake Muzzin fired a shot past Crawford for a 3-2 lead that sucked the life out of the building.

By the time Tyler Toffoli and Carter scored to make it 5-2, nobody needed a show of hands to agree that this was the worst period of the postseason for Chicago.

It got so far out of hand that Coach Joel Quenneville pulled Crawford in favor of an empty net with four minutes left, though as spotty as Crawford's play was, it was hard to tell a difference.

The Hawks will regroup, refuse to panic and say all the right things heading into Game 3 on Saturday night at Staples Center. They know they have to be better from top to bottom — but especially at the top.

What is that hockey cliche about stars needing to play like stars? Anybody seen Patrick Sharp?

You know what they say this time of year. As Nick Leddy and Ben Smith go, so go the Blackhawks.

Actually, nobody says that, which is part of the problem. Leddy and Smith scored the only goals for Chicago and provided some of its few highlights.

These are the guys who rely on their inner drive to stay relevant on a team full of stars. They needed help from those guys in Game 2.

Smith gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead 1:40 into the second period when he found himself behind the Kings' blue line seconds after a line change with nothing but ice between him and goalie Quick. Perhaps stunned by how quickly Smith fired, Quick never had a chance.

The Blackhawks missed two early power-play opportunities, including 38 seconds of a five-on-three, before finally breaking through at the 14:16 mark. The Kings tried to take advantage of a three-on-two while short-handed, but Carter couldn't control a pass and the puck ended up on Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith's stick. Eyeing Leddy breaking into the clear, Keith delivered a pretty pass that perfectly led Leddy into the open ice. Leddy did the rest, beating Quick high with a backhanded flick of the wrist.

Proving that a rested team isn't necessarily a faster one, the Kings committed four penalties in the first 20 minutes. Everybody wondered how the Kings would respond to Game 1 after playing 39 hours earlier, but they actually looked more tired and slower with three days between games.

So sluggish were the Kings in the second period after trying to keep up with speedy Chicago that Coach Darryl Sutter took a timeout with 8:15 left until intermission. The Blackhawks kept coming in waves, and then suddenly they stopped, for reasons that will keep Chicago up for nights.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter: @DavidHaugh

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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