The Chicago Blackhawks entered play on Sunday ranked second in the NHL in both offense and defense, and that all-around dominance was once again on display in a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks prolonged their impressive season-opening points streak to 15 games with the win, improving their record to 12-0-3 on the season. They will need to beat the Vancouver Canucks at home on Tuesday in order to match the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks for the longest season-opening points streak in NHL history.
Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews scored first-period goals for Chicago, and Patrick Sharp added another just 56 seconds into the second period to give his team a commanding 3-0 lead. The Blackhawks outshot the Kings 21 to 10 during the middle frame, and 37 to 27 overall.
Goaltender Corey Crawford sat out with an upper-body injury, making way for backup Ray Emery to get his second consecutive start, and fifth overall this season. Emery stopped 25 of 27 shots in earning the win and improving to 5-0-0, with a 2.17 goals against average, and .929 save percentage in 2013.
On the other side, Jonathan Quick made his first start for the Kings in over a week, after backup goalie Jonathan Bernier allowed a combined two goals in starting the previous two games. Quick has struggled early in the year after undergoing a surgical procedure on his back during the offseason. He had a decent game in net Sunday, stopping 34 of 37 shots on goal.
Los Angeles made a belated push with two power-play goals from Mike Richards in the final period to cut the lead to one. They had an opportunity to tie the game late when Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya was called for slashing, awarding the Kings a power play with 1:04 remaining in the game. Quick was subsequently pulled from the Kings' net in exchange for an extra attacker, giving Los Angeles a 6 on 4 for the remainder of play. But they would fail to find any openings against a Chicago penalty kill that ranks third in the NHL.
After a rough start, the Kings picked up the pace in the third period, but ultimately couldn't make-up enough ground to earn at least a point. The Blackhawks dominated the first two periods, until falling back on their heels in the third, and allowing the Kings to work themselves back into the game.
''I thought we had a great first 40 minutes and they got some momentum off their power-play goal early in the third,'' Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. ''They had a great third period. We had 40, they had a great 20, and the clock ran out, which was nice.''
Outside of the two late power-play goals from Richards, the Blackhawks defense kept the Kings scoreless in 5 on 5 play over the entire 60 minutes.
With the loss, the Kings dropped to 5-6-2 overall on the season, and remain at the bottom of the Pacific Division with just 12 points in 13 games.
''We probably didn't play well enough to win this game,'' Richards said. ''The slow start kind of cost us. We gave them a lot in the first period with penalties and some turnovers and they scored some goals, which put us behind the eight-ball pretty quick.''
Richards' two power-play goals were a bright spot for the NHL's 27th ranked power play.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty picked up two assists, while forwards Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams earned one assist apiece in the loss.
The Kings have played six of their last seven on the road, going 2-4-0 in those games. They are in the midst of a stretch that has them playing eight out of nine games away from Staples Center, before returning home to play the following eight out of nine games in Los Angeles. Following a dominating performance in last year's postseason when they won 10 consecutive playoff games on the road, the defending champs are just 3-5-1 as the visiting team so far this season.
The Kings will play next in Edmonton against the Oilers on Tuesday at 7 PM PST.Tags: Anze Kopitar, Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks, Drew Doughty, Hockey, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Toews, Justin Williams, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, NHL, Patrick Sharp, Ray Emery