The Chicago Blackhawks are like any other team facing reigning Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick: they’re doing everything they can to beat him.
On Sunday night, their work chased him.
Michal Handzus’ second goal of the postseason sent Quick packing midway through the second period, and Corey Crawford stopped 29 of 31 shots on the other end as the Blackhawks beat the Kings 4-2 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday night. The Blackhawks take a 2-0 series lead heading to Los Angeles, where the Kings are 7-0 this postseason.
Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad each had two assists for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks struck early and often through two periods, with Handzus giving them a 4-0 advantage near the midway point of the second. That was it for Quick, who was pulled for Jonathan Bernier after giving up four goals on 17 shots.
It was the first time the Kings have allowed more than three goals in a playoff game since a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on April 25, 2011.
“It was surprising to me they pulled him. But we did a good job,” Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival said. “We scored early on him, we got one on the power play, we kind of kept him in the crease and it’s always nice to see when you can force a goalie out of the net with the way you play. But I’m pretty sure he’ll be back. He’s one of the best goalies.”
There’s no doubt about that. But Quick’s departure was the second surprise of the night. The first one came before the game even began. Mike Richards, who coach Darryl Sutter said was “fine” after a late hit from Dave Bolland last night, was scratched. Richards did take part in warmups prior to the game, but Sutter said Richards didn’t feel right after them.
“He was fine today. Then I think just once his blood got pumping tonight, the adrenaline got going, there were symptoms,” Sutter said. “I went in right after warmup, he was sitting there and I said, ‘Unless you're 100 percent, you're not playing.’”
The Blackhawks just went about their business, jumping out to an early lead and taking what momentum the Kings were building with their first-period play. Andrew Shaw scored just 1:56 into the game and Brent Seabrook added his with 51 seconds remaining in the first.
“I thought we had a real good start the first five minutes. They had the next five. I think we finished the rest of that period well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They were all good starting the second and I think we got a little bit loose with our game after that. But certainly it put us in a real good spot.”
After needing a lot of shots, traffic and a deflection to beat Quick in Game 1, the Blackhawks beat him several ways in Game 2. Bryan Bickell was credited with a power-play goal--his sixth overall goal of the season--but Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr actually punched it through.
“We’ll take them any way we can get them. If you go a couple periods with a lot of scoring chances, a lot of shots and they don’t go in, you have to change something,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We’re just focusing on what we have to do and try to make them worry about us in all areas of the rink.”
Crawford, meanwhile, was strong once again. He made several key saves, including a Dustin Penner breakaway in the second period, and came to Toews’ defense when Kyle Clifford was hitting the Blackhawks’ captain late in the third period.
“We’ve been answering questions all year about Corey, if he's the No. 1 guy, if he can do it. We’ve said the same answer all along,” Sharp said. “There's no question in our locker room. He's the guy we want in net back there. He's proven it in the past. It's nice to see him finally get the credit that he deserves.”
As far as the guy in the other net, the Blackhawks know they haven’t heard the last from him. Quick is a stellar goaltender who had an uncharacteristically tough night. The Blackhawks did what they wanted here in Chicago: they held home-ice advantage. Now they’ll have to try and do the same where the Kings have been tremendous this postseason.
“This time of year you try to carry momentum as long as you can. Every game presents different challenges,” Sharp said. “We're happy to win the first two games at home but we know how well the Kings play in their building. The series is just getting started, really.”