Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews beats Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Blackhawks 5, Kings 2 (final)
Were the Kings’ heads still up in the rafters with their crisp, new Stanley Cup banner Saturday afternoon when the puck dropped at Staples Center for their title defense?
The elements were there for a rousing start to a repeat attempt. Players got their diamond-encrusted rings and helped launch the banner skyward in a touching ceremony that included the banner being delivered by 8-year-old Isaiah Marquez-Greene, brother of Sandy Hook shooting victim Ana Marquez-Greene. Fans roared and cried, exultant at seeing what they had waited through decades -- and a lockout -- to witness.
And then the Kings gave as flat, and flat-footed, a performance as could be imagined in a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
They gave up more goals on Saturday than they had in any of the 20 games during their remarkable playoff run, an alarming fact for a team that again figures to be a low-scoring outfit and on Saturday lacked center Anze Kopitar, who has a knee injury.
The Kings’ fourth line was responsible for both goals, with Rob Scuderi converting a pass from Colin Fraser in the second period and Jordan Nolan redirecting a shot by Matt Greene past Corey Crawford at 9:20 of the third period. That second goal cut Chicago’s lead to 4-2, but Marian Hossa whipped a shot past Jonathan Quick just 15 seconds later to re-establish a three-goal difference.
Hossa scored twice and had an assist while Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews contributed a goal and an assist.
Blackhawks 4, Kings 1 (end of second period)
The second verse was the same as the first: the Blackhawks caught the Kings’ defense flat-footed and made good use of their speed, extending their lead to 4-0 at 1:16 of the second period. The Kings didn’t break through until the final two minutes of the period and trail, 4-1, after two periods.
On Chicago’s goal, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made a save on a shot by Patrick Kane but was helpless on Jonathan Toews’ rebound attempt. That meant the Kings, in 21 minutes and 16 seconds of this game, had given up more goals than they yielded in any of their 20 playoff games last season on the way winning the Stanley Cup.
Their offense, which clearly missed center Anze Kopitar (knee injury), got little going against the Blackhawks. They really didn’t have a dangerous shot on Chicago goalie Corey Crawford until 11:50 of the period, when Justin Williams had a good chance from the right side. Crawford slid over to make the save.
The Kings had two power plays in the period but couldn’t capitalize. However, they energized the crowd by scoring at 18:37.
Their fourth line -- Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan -- benefitted from a good shift by the previous line of Dustin Penner, Jeff Carter and Williams. Clifford and Fraser kept the pressure on the Blackhawks and dug the puck out before Fraser passed to Rob Scuderi, whose shot got past Crawford while Clifford stood in front to screen him.
Blackhawks 3, Kings 0 (end of first period)
Blackhawks = buzz killers.
The Kings’ Stanley Cup banner had barely settled into position in the rafters before the goals unfurled.
The Blackhawks scored three times in the first 14 minutes and 11 seconds, including once on the power play, and led 3-0 after the first period, quieting the celebratory mood at Staples Center.
Patrick Kane scored on the power play at 3:41, and Chicago broke the game open with goals on consecutive shots.
Marian Hossa’s centering pass looked like it deflected off Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, at 12:57, and Michael Frolik made it 3-0 at 14:11.
The Kings were without top center Anze Kopitar and missed the veteran presence of defenseman Willie Mitchell. Both are out with knee injuries.
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