Blackhawks quickly kill the Kings’ buzz at Staples
There was precise timing, a fierce sense of urgency and a near-complete understanding between teammates.
Yes, it was all there, via a montage of playoff highlights, on display on the scoreboard, not on the ice for three periods at Staples Center with Chicago beating the Kings, 5-2.
Granted, the Kings of Saturday were never going to be able to compete with the Stanley Cup champion Kings of June. That would be wildly unfair with more than seven months between the games.
Rust turned out to be a bigger enemy than the pregame hoopla for the Kings on a season-opening afternoon when they took a curtain call with the raising of their Stanley Cup banner and distribution of shiny champion rings from Tiffany & Co.
The banner had barely settled into position in the rafters before the goals unfurled. It took Chicago a mere 3 minutes 41 seconds to score — Patrick Kane’s one-timer on a two-man advantage — and the Blackhawks led 3-0 before the game was 15 minutes old.
At least the Blackhawks got over their Stanley Cup hangover … from 2010.
The emotion leaked out of Staples Center in rapid fashion and Kings Coach Darryl Sutter made an interesting comparison about the demands on his players.
“I kind of looked at it as similar to before we played Game 4 last year,” he said. “Of the Finals. You [need to] focus on what you do yourself more than what everybody else wants you to do.
“We knew the schedule. We were playing a team that did that two years ago….It really wasn’t an issue.”
Marian Hossa sparked the Blackhawks with two goals and an assist, and captain Jonathan Toews, who had been suffering from flu, had a goal and an assist, as did Kane.
Chicago led 4-0 before Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi scored late in the second period. That equaled Scuderi’s goal-scoring output from 82 games last season. The Kings never gave up more than three goals in any playoff game in their run to the Cup.
Hossa’s first goal, making it 2-0, came when his pass deflected off Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, and his second goal, Chicago’s fifth, resulted from a benign-looking shot glancing off Kings defenseman Alec Martinez.
The puck changed directions to beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to make it, 5-2, only 15 seconds after the Kings had pulled within 4-2 in the third period when Jordan Nolan scored at 9:20.
Kyle Clifford had two assists for the Kings.
“A couple of bad bounces there — that happens,” said Quick, last year’s playoff most valuable player. “You’ve got to be able to rebound. We weren’t able to, especially my performance…. When it came down to it, to make the big save, to keep the team, the score close, I wasn’t able to do it.”
Additionally, the Kings’ power play was ineffective (0 for 5) and the line of Simon Gagne-Mike Richards-Dustin Brown was a combined minus-nine, on the ice for the Blackhawks’ final three goals.
The Kings were without center Anze Kopitar and defenseman Willie Mitchell, both out because of knee injuries.
“I think we probably weren’t nearly as sharp as where we wanted to be in the game,” Brown said. “We’re ready to close that chapter and start anew. From a game standpoint, we didn’t come out or play as well. It’s one game.
“We’ve got to get back at it. A lot of it is the timing and when the timing is off, you get a second behind and that can be the difference between a goal.”
Scuderi, for his part, did not think the long pregame ceremony was a factor. He also spoke about closing the Stanley Cup chapter and moving forward in this lockout-shortened season.
“If we use it as a focus and a crutch for us to lean on, we’re going to be out of this season pretty quick,” Scuderi said. “Like I said, it’s up to us to get back to our game and I think we’ll be OK once we can do that.”
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