Brandon Saad scored a goal in the first period, and it was the only tally of the contest as Antti Raanta stopped all 26 shots he faced and gave the Chicago Blackhawks their first shutout of the season in a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
Early physicality by both teams really set the tone for the contest, but there were some great subtle defensive plays as well. Anze Kopitar had a good one when he aggressive back-checked Patrick Sharp in the offensive zone, and he ended up getting a good scoring chance out of it. Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews returned the favor by jumping into a puck battle in the corner of the defensive zone, and not only did he win the puck, but he got a great rush going the other way.
Despite the great defense by the Kings and Hawks, the Blackhawks were finally able to get out on a rush, and they got on the board first. Duncan Keith started the proceedings when he took a huge hit in the defensive zone to flip a pass out to the neutral zone, where Bryan Bickell grabbed it. On a 2-on-1 rush, Bickell tried to pass across the zone to Saad, but the puck was deflected by Matt Greene and picked up by Mike Richards. Richards couldn’t get full control though, and Saad stole the puck and roofed a snapshot in one fluid motion to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
The physicality quotient got ratcheted back up following the goal though, with Colin Fraser landing the biggest blow when he sent Michal Rozsival over the half-boards and into the area between the benches where NBCSN announcer Brian Engblom was standing. Brent Seabrook responded by drilling Richards in the defensive corner of the ice, and later in the period he also sent Kings captain Dustin Brown to the ground after the pesky forward tried hitting Seabrook in the open ice.
The Kings did get a late power play in the first period thanks to a bad hook by Kris Versteeg in the offensive zone, and LA nearly tied the game. Marian Hossa and Niklas Hjalmarsson both failed to clear the zone, but it was Toews who saved the day when he stick-checked Jeff Carter in front of the net to prevent the Kings’ sniper from getting off a shot.
The successful kill ensured that the Blackhawks got out of the first period with a 1-0 lead, and as the second started, they got a chance to extend that lead. The Kings committed two early penalties, giving the Hawks a brief 5-on-3 power play, but they couldn’t get any chances as Los Angeles won every puck battle and cleared the puck with ease throughout the sequence.
Making matters worse for the Hawks, they ended up committing another penalty as they were guilty of a too many men on the ice infraction. The Blackhawks did get some nice momentum with a good kill featuring a Toews’ breakaway that almost resulted in another Hawks goal, but the puck rolled off of his stick at the last minute.
Later on in the period, Brown got hooked by Brent Seabrook, and he was given a penalty shot as a result. Raanta made an outstanding play to stop the ensuing shot though, as Brown tried to go blocker side and Raanta got a big piece of the shot to stop it dead in its tracks. The remainder of the period featured more shot blocks and occasional bone-crushing hits (including one where Bryan Bickell ended up drilling Andrew Shaw by accident), and the Hawks maintained a 1-0 lead after two periods.
The fourth line for the Blackhawks started out the third period with a lot of jump, but despite the great play from Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger, the Hawks weren’t able to get anything. Toews then got in on the act with a great wrap-around attempt against Jones, but the Kings’ goaltender made a great lateral move to stop it with his left pad.
Jones had to be on his toes again a few minutes later as the Hawks’ third line got in on the action. This time it was Shaw with a couple of great chances, as he one-timed a shot off a pass from behind the net, but Jones made a right pad save. The rebound came right out to Shaw, who once again fired a quick shot that Jones again stopped with his pad to keep the score at 1-0.
The Blackhawks did get a power play on a controversial call in the middle stages of the period, as Toews was taken down by Carter on what looked like a breakaway. The officials didn’t see it that way, and so instead of a penalty shot the Hawks went to the man-advantage. It looked like they had scored a goal about 30 seconds into it, but Shaw’s stick was well above the crossbar when it deflected a Patrick Sharp shot from the point, so the goal was waved off.
After the Kings finished off the kill, they started pushing the other way, but two Hawks defensemen made lead-saving plays. First, Johnny Oduya made a perfect diving stop on a Kopitar breakaway, and then Keith executed a gorgeous poke check to break up a Kyle Clifford breakaway chance to keep the game a 1-0 affair.
In the game’s closing minutes, the Kings had a tough time in getting Jones pulled for the extra attacker, as the Hawks kept the pressure on the puck carrier. Finally, he was able to get to the bench with 50 seconds left, but when the puck went out of play, he had to go right back to his net.
He was able to get back off with 35 seconds remaining, but the Kings could only manage one easy shot as the Hawks clamped down defensively to secure the victory.
The Hawks will have a couple of days off before hitting the road for a quick road trip to play against the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils on Thursday and Friday.