CHICAGO – For the second straight game, the Chicago Blackhawks used tight defence and discipline to beat a team that has been above them in the standings for most of this season.
Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Fernando Pisani scored, rookie Corey Crawford made 26 saves and the suddenly focused Blackhawks held on to beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Sunday night.
Defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago won its second straight, allowing only one power play after a penalty-free effort Friday night in a 4-1 victory over Detroit.
“Obviously, it’s the way we expect to play, the way we know we can play,” Toews said. “Going into every game, we’ve got to remind ourselves it’s much more enjoyable when you play the way we did tonight.”
Toews, the Blackhawks captain, has helped pick up some slack offensively as Chicago skated again without star forwards Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Toews added an assist Sunday and has four goals and six assists Chicago’s last seven games.
But team “D” was on Toews’ mind after the win.
“That was a huge part of it,” he said. “We were taking away second opportunities and big scoring chances. We’ve stepped up a little.”
Crawford started for the ninth time in 11 games for the Blackhawks, and was sharp when needed.
“We had a good feeling after Detroit and were able to carry it,” Crawford said. “We played a solid game tonight, definitely kept them to the outside and cleared rebounds.”
Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds scored for the Kings, and Jonathan Quick stopped 21 shots. They lost in regulation for only the second time in their last eight games (5-2-1).
“I thought we played a pretty good game, but a pretty good game against these guys is not good enough,” Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. “In this league you’ve got to play 60 minutes and that second period was not even close to what we need to play.
“In the third period we were all over them, I thought. We had chances. But when you’re chasing down, it’s not easy especially against these guys.”
Toews scored the only goal in a physical first period, connecting midway through the frame. He fired a low shot from the right circle through a screen and just beyond Quick’s outstretched left pad on the short side.
Clifford tied it at 1:34 of the second, beating Crawford with a flashy move. Clifford streaked in off left wing, got behind the defence and scored after faking to his forehand and shooting on his backhand.
“That was a real power forward play,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “Taking it right to the hole, that’s a brave thing to do and nice hands as he got close to the net.”
Keith restored Chicago’s lead 25 seconds later on a screened low shot from the left point with two Kings and two Blackhawks in the front of the net.
Pisani made it 3-1 with 7:35 left in the second with his first goal since Nov. 20. He rifled a high shot over Quick from the slot after Dave Bolland’s centring pass slipped beyond the reach of its intended target, Bryan Bickell, and onto Pisani’s stick as he followed up on the play.
Simmonds cut it to 3-2 at 1:20 of the third, just two seconds after a Los Angeles power play elapsed. He chopped a shot over Crawford from the edge of the crease.
The Kings pressured late, but Crawford was sharp when Los Angeles was able to generate chances.
NOTES: Kane missed his sixth game because of an injured left ankle. Hossa sat out his ninth game with a lower-body injury, but has resumed skating. Chicago LW Viktor Stalberg missed his second game because of an upper-body injury. … Los Angeles played D Matt Green missed his third game with an upper-body injury and D Willie Mitchell missed his second because of a lower-body injury. Kings RW Brad Richardson returned Sunday after missing four games with an upper-body injury.