Just about every time the Kings play the Chicago Blackhawks, the talk beforehand turns to the thrilling playoff series the teams played during their dynasty years.
This visit followed suit, even though the participants have fallen off since they combined to win five of the past eight Stanley Cups. Kings coach John Stevens reminisced that their matchups were “almost like a heavyweight bout where you went after each other.”
The Kings delivered a big opening-period blow Monday, then spent the final two periods on the ropes. Only Jonathan Quick and goals by Torrey Mitchell, Andy Andreoff and Dion Phaneuf got them to a 3-1 win in likely their last visit to United Center this season.
In a reversal of their season trend, the first period of the Kings’ past two games has been their best. This time the Kings allowed only four shots in what also was a stunning display of lethargy from Chicago in front of 21,339 fans.
“Arguably one of the best periods we’ve played this year,” Anze Kopitar said.
“Historically we’ve had some pretty bad first periods. Obviously, the focus has to be on the start, too, and we’ve done a pretty good job. But we’ve got to sustain it. Maybe the third period wasn’t the way we wanted to play, but we got the job done.”
The Kings were outshot 13-3 in the third, and that included a power play. Normally the best third-period team in the NHL, the Kings have been outshot by a combined 33-10 in the third in the past two games.
“I think that’s just part of hockey,” Andreoff said. “It’s part of the momentum game. When we have that jump, when they have that jump. I think that’s just part of the game.”
Quick made two saves on a Chicago shorthanded two-on-one and anchored a nearly three-minute extra-attacker advantage by the Blackhawks. Kopitar won a faceoff in the final seconds and was on the ice with Mitchell, Nate Thompson, Drew Doughty and Derek Forbort to close it out. It exposed the value of players like Thompson and Mitchell, who were both outstanding defensively.
“You need guys that are willing to do that,” Quick said. “If you don’t have guys that are willing to do that, you’re not a playoff team.”
Phaneuf has two goals in three games with the Kings. He ripped a slap shot through Tanner Pearson’s screen on the power play to give the Kings a 3-0 lead. Andreoff has five points on the trip after he tipped Jonny Brodzinski’s shot-pass. Thompson pressured at the boards to set up Mitchell for a slap shot at the high slot at 8:31.
It was the type of depth scoring the Kings have desperately needed.
“I think that’s huge for your hockey team,” Stevens said. “We want those guys to be really good checkers. We want those guys to play a really good team game. But we want those guys to score and try and score when the opportunity is there.”
KINGS AT WINNIPEG JETS
When: Tuesday, 5 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: 790
Update: The Jets wrap up a franchise-long 10-game homestand by trying to match the team record for most home wins in a season (24), reached by its previous incarnation, the Atlanta Thrashers, in 2005-06. Center Mark Scheifele was named the NHL’s third star of the week and has 46 points in 43 games.