For a period and a half on Saturday the Blackhawks peppered the Los Angeles Kings net with nothing to show for it. They outshot the Kings by 17 2 in the first period yet trailed by a goal. Patience though trumped frustration. The Blackhawks found their offense and grabbed Game 1 of the Western Conference finals 2 1.
Game 2 is Sunday at United Center.
The series set up as a contrast in styles the up tempo offense of the Blackhawks against the size of the Kings defense and Quick the most valuable player in last year s Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 1 fit the billing. The Kings did not register a shot for the first eight minutes while the Blackhawks dominated the puck the pace and the possession.
He does some things in the net that you try to overcome Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville said. Volume and traffic on shots is the only way to get this guy.
At 12 minutes 29 seconds of the second period the Blackhawks relentless pressure paid off. Johnny Oduya fired a shot from the point that Quick saved with a blocker. But the rebound bounced to the stick of Patrick Sharp as he streaked toward the net. Sharp beat Quick with a put back for his team high eighth goal of the playoffs.
He s going to make those saves from the outside Sharp said. It s about getting to the inside. It s about outworking their defensemen to get those second and third opportunities.
Four minutes after Sharp s goal Duncan Keith took a pass from Bryan Bickell at the point and fired a shot at Quick. Marian Hossa posted in front of the goal held out his stick and deflected the puck past the screened Quick.
The Blackhawks had the lead and what had been a subdued crowd came alive. Chicago killed a penalty midway through the third period and Corey Crawford who had 21 saves made the lead hold up. The Blackhawks even flexed a little muscle with a big hit from Dave Bolland on Mike Richards in the final minutes that brought the home fans to their feet.
Before the series the Blackhawks talked about the bounces that would be needed to beat Quick who entered Game 1 leading the playoffs with a .948 save percentage and a 1.5 goals against average. Those breaks eventually went Chicago s way Saturday but only after the Kings were the recipients of the puck s first critical hop late in the first period.
After a failed clearing attempt Crawford tried to sweep the puck away from his crease and Bolland also got a stick on it in an attempt to clear the zone. But the puck ricocheted off the stick of Justin Williams and skipped past Crawford into the net.
It was Williams s third goal in two games he scored both goals for the Kings in Game 7 against the San Jose Sharks in the second round. Saturday s goal though did little to change the game s flow as the Blackhawks tested Quick from the opening face off.
In the early part of the game Quick was equal to Chicago s many challenges. In the first period he stuffed Patrick Kane during a four on four as Kane skated alone through the goal mouth after a pass from Jonathan Toews in the corner. Kane measured a shot but Quick turned it away with his stick hand.
Later in the first Quick stopped a one timer from Sharp and then a good chance on the rebound from Brandon Saad. In the second period Quick gloved a laserlike wrist shot from Keith.
Shift after shift the waves of pressure we didn t have them at all it seemed Kings center Jarret Stoll said. We didn t have that consistent push we wanted to so therefore we didn t get a lot of scoring opportunities.
Both teams entered the series battle tested having won two of the past three Stanley Cups. The Blackhawks won it in 2010 and had a league high 77 points in this lockout shortened regular season. The Kings are the defending champions and peaking again in the postseason. Each team also survived a seven game series in the second round the Kings taking out the Sharks and the Blackhawks needing overtime to eliminate the Detroit Red Wings.
The Kings welcomed the return of Stoll who missed the final six games of the series against the Sharks after a hit to the head from Raffi Torres in Game 1. But the Blackhawks left the arena knowing they were the team that imposed its style and speed on the Kings and on Quick their seemingly invincible goaltender.
Quick s a good goalie Sharp said. We try not to talk about him too much and go out there and control what we can control.