Kings pound away but Blackhawks don't wilt and win 5-3

Kings pound away but Blackhawks don't wilt and win 5-3

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

When Chicago faced Los Angeles it was a battle of the top offense versus the best defense in the Western Conference. Unlike the Super Bowl the better offensive team won Monday night as the Hawks downed the Kings 5-3. With the win Chicago swept the three game season series with LA.

The Kings tried to impose their will over the Blackhawks by outhitting them 36-10. As was the case in last year's playoffs, LA pounded away but the Hawks didn't wilt.

In the first period the Blackhawks put on a strong performance but were up by only one goal after 20 minutes. They had a lot of puck possession time and had chances to extend their lead. Either the Hawks missed the net or they provided opportunities for the Kings by taking bad penalties which helped keep the score close.

Patrick Kane opened the scoring at the 1:02 mark while on the power play with a fine individual effort. A little over seven minutes later it was Kane leading a 3-on-1 rush as he set up Bryan Bickell who put the Hawks up by two goals.

In the first frame the Kings were throwing their weight around and going out of their way to hit the Blackhawks. LA established a physical tone and at one time had a 15-2 hit advantage, but they were generating few scoring chances.

Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw took poor penalties. The penalty killing unit was able to kill off Sharp's double minor but LA scored on the Shaw powerplay. After LA cut the lead in half, they took control in the second frame.

The Kings had the Hawks back on their heels and controlled the neutral zone. Anze Kopitar scored early in the frame and evened the score at two. Corey Crawford was fortunate getting help on at least three shots that hit iron in the middle frame. That said, Crawford kept his club in the contest by making some big stops and couldn't be faulted on any of the goals.

No one seems to get hit hard more often than Marcus Kruger. Monday night Kruger was getting pounded more than usual but he is one tough customer. After getting knocked down near the Kings net Kruger got to his skates quickly. He was then able to deflect a Nick Leddy shot past Jonathan Quick to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead through 40 minutes.

Going into the third period the Kings held a 20-19 shot advantage. Although the Blackhawks controlled the opening frame they were fortunate to be leading. The Kings could have easily been up by a couple of goals due to their second period dominance.

As the third period began the Hawks needed to regain control.

Oddly, Jonathan Toews had won only two of 17 faceoffs and as a team the Hawks were winners just 21 percent of the time. To be able to start possessing the puck rather than chasing it, that stat would need to change.

In the final period faceoffs improved a bit and the Blackhawks got to work. The Hawks outworked the Kings and didn't look like a club that was pounded into submission. The Blackhawks got the pace up and created scoring chances, while keeping LA in check.

Nick Leddy scored on a well-placed shot from the blueline. Then Kane scored his second of the night by tapping in a nice feed from Sharp.

Kane was playing with a heavy heart after the death of his grandfather on Monday. Kane was the best Chicago player recording two goals and an assist on six shots. Kane's six shots on goal led all players.

Joel Quenneville has everyone healthy and the team he iced Monday night could be the same group that starts the playoffs. With Bickell back in the lineup the third line was much better. Ben Smith and Kruger had fine games as the fourth line continues to shine.

Probably the biggest question mark is whether Brandon Pirri will keep his spot over Michal Handzus. Pirri hasn't been overly impressive but hasn't played poorly.

Many times it appears Pirri isn't playing quickly enough and that could be an issue. With Handzus the issue isn't about reacting slowly, he is hampered because of moving slowly.

The Blackhawks will skate into Anaheim on Wednesday night to face their stiffest challenge of the West Coast road trip. The Ducks are only five and five in their last 10 games but have had the Hawks number.

The Ducks have a great home ice record this season but have cooled off lately. On Monday night the Blue Jackets came in and defeated Anaheim 4-2. With the loss the Ducks have dropped three of their last four at home. In postgame comments their head coach Bruce Boudreau remarked Chicago coming to town is what his team needs to regain focus.

If the Blackhawks can string together three solid periods in Anaheim they can set themselves up for a very good road trip. After facing the Ducks the Hawks will travel to Phoenix for a Friday night tilt.

I will be back on Thursday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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