Blackhawks beat Cup champ Kings in season opener
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org January 19, 2013 4:58PM
Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane, foreground, celebrates his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings in Los Angeles, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:57AM
LOS ANGELES — While the Staples Center shook with the roar of the sellout crowd, while the Los Angeles Kings passed the Stanley Cup around the rink, while the championship banner was raised to the rafters, the Blackhawks idled in their dressing room.
‘‘Just tried to kill some time,’’ winger Marian Hossa said.
Then they went out and killed the mood.
The Hawks had what Patrick Kane called ‘‘the perfect start’’ to the season, silencing a giddy crowd by opening an early three-goal lead and cruising to a 5-2 victory in the lockout-delayed season opener Saturday. It wasn’t so much the victory that made it so perfect for the Hawks; it was the way they earned it.
The Hawks faced many questions as they raced through a five-day training camp, and nearly every one was answered emphatically against the defending champions.
Could the power play regain its scoring touch? Could Kane? Well, Kane scored on a 5-on-3 power play less than four minutes into the game, putting a sharp-angled one-timer just below Kings goalie Jonathan Quick’s glove, just above his pad and just inside the post.
Could the penalty kill keep the puck out of the net? Well, the Kings were 0-for-5 on the power play with a mere five shots on goal. Brent Seabrook picked up a few of his seven blocked shots on the kill.
‘‘It’s huge for us,’’ said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, who had a goal and an assist and led all forwards in ice time despite coming down with the flu Friday. ‘‘We know that’s going to win or lose some games for us.’’
Could Hossa bounce back from the concussion that essentially kept him off the ice until mid-
November? Well, he was aggressive and physical when he needed to be, he set up Kane’s one-timer and he added two goals in a virtuoso return.
Could goalie Corey Crawford
rebound from a disappointing first-round loss to the Phoenix Coyotes last spring? Well, he said he felt sharp making 19 saves, and he had virtually no chance on the two goals he allowed — screened on one and prone on the ice after a collision with teammate Sheldon Brookbank on the other.
And could the Hawks rely on their bottom two lines to produce and log major ice time, keeping the big guns fresh during the compressed schedule? Well, Michael Frolik one-timed a pass from Marcus Kruger past Quick to make it 3-0 late in the first period, and the Hawks rolled four lines throughout the game. Even coach Joel Quenneville, always looking for a nit to pick, said the team was ‘‘solid’’ in all phases.
‘‘We weren’t shortening the bench, we got a power play goal, we played well short-handed, we rolled four lines throughout the game — it was probably a perfect team start to the season,’’ Kane said.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he didn’t think his players suffered a letdown after the emotional pregame ceremony, but the Hawks thought otherwise, having been through this before.
‘‘That’s what happens sometimes,’’ Hossa said. ‘‘We went through it a couple of years ago. . . . You get caught up in the moment, then all of a sudden it’s 2-0.’’
A potentially serious lower-body injury to top-line winger Daniel Carcillo put a damper on things, and the Hawks largely sleepwalked through their final three power plays after taking a 3-0 lead. But the season couldn’t have started much better for the Hawks, who took it to the defending champs from the opening faceoff.
‘‘I’m sure it’s easy to get caught up in [the ceremony], but we weren’t going to take that for granted and just assume they were going to come out flat,’’ Toews said. ‘‘We were just more focused on our game and making sure we were able to play our team game right off the bat.’’