In Chicago, they have a name for the cold, winter wind: The Hawk. Tonight The Hawk was embodied by the Los Angeles Kings, as they blew through Chicago, piercing the night and net, using velocity and clear direction to take all the air out of the United Center. Facing a competitor species, dominance was re-established as the predatory Kings raided the Chicago nest and ultimately grounded the high-flying Blackhawks. Los Angeles came in cold, but like dry ice they robbed the heat from Chi-Town, leaving the Blackhawks both iced and burnt at the same time.
This X Ray shows the final evolution of the L.A. lines; the lineage was myriad.
Neither team could gap the other, in a battle where 9 goals were scored but no team ever had more than a one-goal lead. Chicago scored one, L.A. scored two, then Chicago Scored two and L.A. tied it up with one. Starting the 3rd period at 3-3, Chicago scored early, and the Kings needed goals…
When Toews scored Chicago’s 4th, he did it with Mike Richards standing ineffectively right next to him. Such was the night for Richards, and his then-linemates Carter and King. As a result of that play, Coach Sutter benched the Richards line (line #2) and in so doing kept the NHL’s 4th highest goal scorer this season, Jeff Carter, off the ice. The 3rd period shift log shows 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, then 2 with the goal against. After that it went 3, 4, 1, 3, 4, 1, 3, 4, 1, and within that span line #4 of Nolan/Fraser/Toffoli produced a goal, with Carter looking on from his seat.
When the Richards line was allowed back out, they over-stayed their welcome with a 55 second shift. They were followed by the Kopitar line, and when 2-goal scorer Bobby Frolik boarded Muzzin, the Richards line was left off the ensuing Power Play entirely.
Toffoli’s goal was never seen by Hawks goalie Crawford until it was by him. Toffoli so well disguised his release that Crawford did not even react, and the shot arced into the net from just inside the blue line. Using no windup, and not changing his feet at all, Toffoli just shoveled the puck past the crossing defender’s feet, leaving Crawford without a clue.
Sutter began the game having Brown and Kopi lined with Carter. Richards was centering Williams on the left and Toffoli on the right. Normal lines of King/Stoll/Lewis and Clifford/Fraser/Nolan backed them up. This configuration lasted half the game.
When Dustin Brown was called for interference, Jarrett Stoll picked up his teammate and scored a short-handed goal in support of his Captain. Voynov made the play possible, by first winning a puck and then beating the Hawks down the ice forming a 2 on 1 with Stoll, forcing the lone Hawks defender to cover the pass. This left Stoll alone on Crawford, and the laser from Stoll went in high on his glove-side.
After that more-than-just-successful PK, Darryl “Musical Chairs” Sutter re-united Brown/Kopitar/Williams, dropping Toffoli to the 4th, and bumping King up one to the 2nd and Clifford up 1 to the 3rd. To make room for Toffoli on the 4th line, Nolan moved to Left Wing, and the music had stopped with everyone finding a place.
Dwight King suffered most, via guilt by association, as he was grouped with the guys Sutter eventually benched. Ironically, King overcame that and toed in a goal after an amazing rush by Doughty, scoring with half a second left in the middle period to tie the game.
Doughty’s rush was Orr-like; it was spectacular, flashy and gritty both, streaking end-to-end using finesse and strength to split all 5 Hawks and get a solid shot from 5 feet out. Crawford stopped it, but the loose puck was left in the blue paint, and King skated into it directing but not kicking it home. It was Doughty’s best rush this season, and will probably be the best assist he is ever credited.
The lines remained the same after the 2nd period mixing until the end. Dustin Brown’s inspired play resulted in a goal being scored off a faceoff win, and for once the Kings were the team that created the successful set play.
Facing the team with the best record after being shut out in two consecutive games, and doing so in their building where they had only lost once in regulation, seemed too strong a headwind, but the Kings streamlined approach created a flock of goals, leaving the Blackhawks empty-nesters.