Kings' party quickly ended by Blackhawks' strong performance

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Kings' party quickly ended by Blackhawks' strong performance

LOS ANGELES The Blackhawks sat in their locker room while the Los Angeles Kings reveled in Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony in front of a raucous Staples Center crowd.

A few minutes later, the Blackhawks strong start quieted that celebration quick.

Patrick Kane scored the first goal of the NHL season on a 5-on-3 power play, and the Blackhawks jumped on the defending-champion Kings early en route to a 5-2 victory at Staples Center. It was a stellar start for the Blackhawks, both for this season and in this game, as they raced out to a 3-0 lead against a flat-looking Kings team and never looked back.

But with the victory came a loss: Daniel Carcillo suffered a lower-body injury and coach Joel Quenneville said afterward that, Dannys going to miss some time here. On replays, Carcillo was tangled up with Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and Carcillos right knee looked to get pinned along the boards. He skated off under his own power but soon went to the locker room.

While the Blackhawks depth will get tested quickly, it was an otherwise strong first game for them. Marian Hossa scored twice; Michael Frolik and Jonathan Toews, who missed Fridays practice with the flu, also scored for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford stopped 19 of 21 for his first victory of the season.

Several of the Blackhawks have obviously been through that banner-raising ceremony. They know how joyous, yet distracting, it could be. So jumping out early, if possible, was key.

We went through it a couple of years ago and I know how it feels; you get caught up in the moment and all of a sudden its 2-0 (opponent). We tried to jump on them early and it worked, Hossa said.

Im sure its easy to get caught up in that. But we werent going to take that for granted and assume they were going to start out flat. We wanted to make sure we were playing our team game right off the bat, said Toews, who also had an assist in his 18:47 of ice time. If you score, you score. If you dont you keep working for those chances. Thats what we did. We were lucky to get a few early and keep the pressure on them for 60 minutes.

And it started with the power play, which was a source of much frustration, and not a lot of goals, last season. Kane smacked one past Jonathan Quick with eight seconds left on the 5 on 3, and the Blackhawks took off from there en route to a 3-0 lead at the end of one.

I just tried to move around and create something. Hossa made a nice pass back. I was thinking about shooting that one earlier but got the chance again and took it, Kane said. We have to be happy with the way everyone played. It was probably a perfect game, team-wise.

Crawford was solid in his season debut, getting screened on one goal and getting knocked down right before the second. Crawford ended last season on a sour note but he said this campaign is not about the last one.

Im done thinking about that. Im just moving on from here, said Crawford, who added he felt good from the start today. I was really focused all night. My eyes didnt move from the puck at all.

The Blackhawks bided their time while the Kings had their final celebratory Cup moment. But they were focused from puck drop, and it paid off.

Scoring first certainly helped, and having a great first period like that, Quenneville said. We did a good job with how we played in that first. We had everyone involved, four lines rotating. Thats how you want to start a game, especially on the road.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Keep it simple.

There is no team in the league that scores fewer goals per game (2.00) and allows more goals per game (3.32) than the Avalanche, who are 4-18-1 in their last 23 games, including 1-7-0 in their past eight. The Blackhawks need to keep it simple, get bodies in front of the net and take advantage on special teams against a team that ranks in the bottom-seven in both the power play and penalty kill.

2. Will Jonathan Toews' success against Colorado continue?

It's been a tough year for the Blackhawks captain, who has only seven goals and 21 points in 37 games, including three points in his last seven. Earlier this season he went 13 consecutive games without a goal, and snapped that on Dec. 23 against Colorado in a 2-1 overtime loss. He recorded a season-high seven shots on goal in that game, and has scored a goal in each of his last four contests against the Avalanche. They seem to be his slumpbuster, so perhaps he'll come through again.

3. Marian Hossa's impact.

In the first meeting of the season, Hossa scored two goals in a 4-0 win over Colorado. In the second, the Blackhawks were without him after he was sidelined with an upper-body injury, and fell 2-1 in overtime. The Blackhawks are nearly at full strength this time around, with Marcus Kruger the lone injured player who's recovering from an apparent hand injury.

4. Nathan MacKinnon.

After a solid showing at the World Cup of Hockey last fall, MacKinnon was considered a strong candidate to have a breakout season with a new head coach that preaches an up-tempo style of play, right up MacKinnon's ally. But he hasn't reached that level yet, with 28 points in 41 games. Not bad, but not great by his standards as the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. He scored the overtime winner and added an assist in last month's victory against Chicago at the United Center.

5. Short shifts.

This will be the third meeting of the year between the two teams, but the first one in Colorado. Due to the high altitude in the Mile-High City, expect Joel Quenneville to distribute the minutes more evenly throughout their four lines and intstruct the Blackhawks to be short with their shifts, no longer than 40 seconds.

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Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Patrick Kane was summing up the Blackhawks' weekend, one that didn't go well in terms of points.

"Good way to kind of judge ourselves, where we're at," he said Sunday night. "Might be a little bit of a wake-up call to see how good we really are."

Well, in a way, it is. You can't really compare Friday's loss to Washington and Sunday's loss to Minnesota on performance; the Blackhawks didn't show up for the first game and were much better in the second. Nevertheless, it was the same result in each. The Blackhawks' lengthy hold on first place in the Western Conference ended, with the Wild taking over following Sunday's 3-2 victory.

It's not a sound-the-alarm situation, but the Blackhawks are certainly cognizant of the missed opportunity last weekend and that they came up short against the league's best.

Artem Anisimov agreed with Kane's assessment.

"We just need to play better. All four lines need to play better in all areas of the ice. Just be better in the little things," Anisimov said. "Back check, put stick in the right position, box the guy out, short shifts. All little things need to be better."

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Many of the little things that were absent against the Capitals were back against the Wild. But coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with mistakes made on goals allowed, especially the first two. And while Kane and the second line were a consistent scoring threat against the Wild, the other three lines weren't. It's a problem that's plagued the Blackhawks a good deal this season, even when they were stringing together victories.

There is no reason to think that, because of this weekend's results, the Blackhawks are going to falter against strong teams. They've done well against others already this season. They beat Montreal earlier this season, when the Canadiens were healthy and steamrolling everyone. They beat the New York Rangers when the Rangers and former Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta were on their respective hot streaks.

Still, Kane's analysis is correct: This should get the Blackhawks' attention. The Wild have beaten the Blackhawks in eight consecutive regular-season games now and will face them three more times this season. They have two more meetings with the Edmonton Oilers, who beat them soundly in November.

The Blackhawks' long reign atop the Western Conference standings is over. They’re currently second in the Central Division, with an eight-point cushion over the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have done fairly well this season. But this weekend was a reminder that they can be better.

"The game (on Friday) was kind of like a shock to the system thinking maybe you're one of the top teams in the league, or being able to compete with one of the top teams, and we obviously got thoroughly outplayed. We came back (Sunday night). It was pretty even in chances. We might've even had more so, just kind of didn't pull it out," Kane said. "But (when) you've played two of the better teams in the league and lose, there's got to be room for improvement, right?"