CHICAGO – After the second game of their previous series, the Blackhawks exited the United Center ice with their heads hanging.
Not this time.
Determined not to let history repeat itself, the Hawks sliced and diced the Kings and goaltender Jonathan Quick en route to a 4-2 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Sunday night. The win gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 3 scheduled for Tuesday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Hawks reeled off four goals – two each in the first two periods – to knock Quick, the defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner, out of the game and avoid a letdown similar to the conference semifinals against the Red Wings when they dropped three in a row after opening that series with a win.
“It’s huge for us,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “We expected them to be better than they were in Game 1 and they were. We raised our play too. We know it’s going to get tougher and tougher, especially going into their building. We’ll find that next level like we did (in Game 2).”
Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook, Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus scored and Corey Crawford continued his strong play in goal for the Hawks. Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad added two assists each.
Crawford finished with 29 saves, allowing goals by Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli.
The Hawks’ offensive onslaught began 1 minutes, 56 seconds into the opening period when Shaw took a nifty no-look, backhand pass from Viktor Stalberg and fired a shot past Quick to the stick side.
In the final minute of the opening period, Seabrook fired a laser from the right dot that eluded Quick to the stick side and the crowd of 21,824 sensed something special was coming from the Blackhawks.
Not that they needed it, but the Hawks got some help from the Kings’ Robyn Regehr in the second when the defenseman whacked the puck into his own goal during a scramble in front. Bickell was credited with the goal after the puck had hit the Hawks winger in the leg a split-second before.
The rout was on later in the second when Handzus snapped a wrist shot from the edge of the left circle that Quick couldn’t handle. That was enough for Kings coach Darryl Sutter, as he replaced Quick - who allowed the four goals on 17 shots – with backup Jonathan Bernier. Late in the second, Carter scored on a one-timer to cut the deficit to 4-1.
In the waning moments, Toffoli scored on a power play, just the second time in 48 chances in the playoffs Hawks penalty killers yielded a goal.
The Kings have won all seven of their home games during the playoffs.