LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Faceoffs are as integral a part of Jonathan Toews’ game as his goal-scoring and play-making, and his quick hands paid off again for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Toews scored the go-ahead goal in the second period after winning a faceoff from Mike Richards, helping the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 on Saturday night.
“It’s one of those little things that players—especially skilled players—underestimate,” said Toews, who won 11 of 20 faceoffs. “You want to start every play with the puck instead of chasing it, especially when you’re playing against puck-possession teams like L.A. It makes a big difference when you win that draw and get possession right away. But I definitely didn’t have an easy time against Mike Richards out there tonight.”
Toews, who came in leading the NHL with a 61.8 winning percentage on faceoffs, put Chicago ahead 2-1 with 3:22 left in the second on his 13th goal after beating Richards clean on the draw.
The puck went back to Duncan Keith, whose long screened wrist shot went wide of the left post on a deflection off teammate Viktor Stalberg. But Toews was right there to get the hard carom off the end boards and slam it home behind Jonathan Quick, who stuck out his right leg too late.
It was the second straight game-winner and fourth this season for the Blackhawks’ captain, who had two goals and three assists on Friday in a wild 6-5 win down the freeway against the Anaheim Ducks.
“On that particular play, Taser won the draw real clean, and that gives me a little extra time to make a good play,” Keith said. “As a defenceman, it’s important getting your head up and knowing when to shoot it. It’s something we always try to work on. It was a nice play by Stally to get to the middle there and create traffic, and a good job by Taser to get the rebound.”
Andrew Brunette also scored for the Blackhawks and Keith had two assists.
Corey Crawford, 4-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average in four career starts against the Kings, stopped 26 shots after making 23 saves against the Ducks. It was the first time he started on consecutive days since splitting a home-and-home set against the Dallas Stars to open the season.
The Kings lost to the Blackhawks for the seventh straight time and fourth in a row at home. Quick had 25 saves and Jarret Stoll ended a 17-game goal drought. Richards’ career-best goal-scoring streak ended at five games.
“We had our share of chances but we couldn’t bear down,” Anze Kopitar said. “A couple of times the puck was just laying around there and we couldn’t quite get it in there. It’s tough, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. There’s no secret to it. You just have to get more shots on net. You have to keep it simple—take the shot and not try to be too cute.”
Chicago, 9-0-1 when scoring first, got the jump on the Kings at 3:08 of the opening period. Brunette scored on a wraparound, as Quick tried to scramble around Kopitar and Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland in the crease to cover the right post. Chicago is 5-0 when Brunette scores a goal, and in four of those games he got their first one.
The Blackhawks had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 about eight minutes into the second period, as Stalberg and Patrick Kane flashed down the ice on a 2-on-none break. But Stalberg shot wide of the right post after getting Kane’s cross-ice feed, and the opportunistic Kings tied it with 7:58 to go in the period.
“That was a really good chance we had, but we didn’t look at their goal as the one that could make the difference in the game and we didn’t let it bother us,” Toews said. “We knew it was going to come right down to the end, regardless of what happened in that second period.”
Matt Greene’s shot from the right point was blocked by Keith, but the puck caromed to Stoll, and he beat Crawford high to the glove side with a 25-foot wrist shot for his first goal since Oct. 18.
The Blackhawks were 3-3-0 on their annual circus road trip, which included a two-day stopover in Las Vegas. They won’t play consecutive games on the road again until they go on a franchise record-tying nine-game trip that runs from Jan. 31 through Feb. 18 and spans four time zones. The only other nine-game trip in the franchise’s 85-year history was in 1955-56, when the NHL was comprised of just six teams—all within a 987-mile radius.
“For some of the guys who have been around here, we’re used to this trip,” Keith said. “Obviously it was a long road trip and we’re excited to go home now. We’re happy with the way we played the last three games, and it’s nice to finish the trip with a couple of wins and use that momentum and excitement when we get home.”
Notes: Chicago coach Joel Quenneville played his final nine NHL games for current Kings coach Terry Murray during the 1990-91 season, when Murray was coaching the Washington Capitals. … Keith, who the Norris Trophy in 2010 as the league’s top defenceman, has been on the ice for 17 of the 21 goals scored against the Blackhawks in their last five games. He also leads the team in ice time per game. … Kings C Colin Fraser helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup in 2010 before he was traded to Edmonton for a draft pick just 15 days after the Cup clincher. … This was the 27th time Chicago has played back-to-back road games against Kings and Ducks, and only the fourth time the Blackhawks have won both. It also happened in March 1994, February 1996, and last November. … The Kings lost all four meetings with the Blackhawks last season, three of them by one-goal margins. Their next rendezvous will be Dec. 28 at Chicago, where Los Angeles hasn’t won in six tries since Dec. 30, 2007. … The Kings have not allowed a goal in 11 short-handed situations over their last three games, after giving up at least one in eight straight contests.