CHICAGO – The Blackhawks used a strong start against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday to keep their strong start to the season on a roll.
Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each had a goal and an assist to help the Hawks beat the Kings, 3-2, extending their season-opening points streak to 15 games.
Patrick Sharp also scored for the Hawks (12-0-3), who matched the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers for the second-longest season-opening points streak in NHL history. The Hawks are one away from tying the league record set by Anaheim in 2006-07 and will try to match the mark Tuesday when they hosts Vancouver.
Mike Richards scored two power-play goals in the third period to pull the Kings within one after the Hawks outplayed the Stanley Cup champions in the opening 40 minutes and built a 3-0 lead.
But the Hawks and goalie Ray Emery hung on.
“The guys wanted to get a good start, a good jump on L.A.,” Seabrook said. “Ray made the big saves when he needed to.”
The Hawks’ start to the season is beginning to reach historic proportions in more way than one.
Anaheim won the Stanley Cup in 2007 after its record-setting points start. The 1984-85 Oilers and Montreal, which opened with 14 straight in 1943-44, also won the Cup in those seasons.
Emery, the Hawks’ backup, made 25 saves. He lost a bid for his first shutout in more than three years when Richards connected 56 seconds into the third period. Emery made back-to-back starts for the first time this season with Corey Crawford missing his second game because of an undisclosed upper-body injury.
And things got a little frantic for the Hawks at the end after Richards notched his second goal – just his fourth this season – with 7:10 left. The Hawks spent the final 1:04 short-handed after Johnny Oduya was sent off for slashing, and Jonathan Quick was pulled for an extra attacker during that span.
“I thought we had a great first 40 minutes and they got some momentum off their power-play goal early in the third,” Hawks 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.”
Not so for Los Angeles (5-6-2), which has struggled on offense and with injuries. The only bright spot for the Kings was their power play, which came in ranked 27th in the NHL before connecting twice in a game for only the second time this season.
“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.”
Sharp, who led the Hawks with 33 goals last season, ended a 10-game drought without a score.
The Hawks outshot Los Angeles 37-27 and defeated the Kings for the second time this season to end Los Angeles’ two-game winning streak. The Hawks won, 5-2, in the teams’ season opener at Staples Center.
Quick started in goal and finished with 34 saves for the Kings after backup Jonathan Bernier was in net in Los Angeles’ previous two games.
The Hawks were a step faster than the Kings in the first period and held a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Seabrook opened the scoring 6:29 in to cap a Hawks flurry in the Kings’ zone, and after Quick had made several in-close saves.
Seabrook pinched down to the low edge of the left circle and took a pinpoint feed from Duncan Keith, who threaded a cross-ice pass from the top of the right circle. Seabrook then slid a shot into an open net before Quick could dive across.
Toews’ power-play goal 4 minutes later made it 2-0. Stationed in the slot, Toews first tipped Keith’s feed off the right post, but buried the loose puck before Quick could cover it.
Sharp exploited a Kings coverage breakdown and increased the Hawks’ lead to 3-0 just 56 seconds into the second period. Quick dropped to the ice to block Toews’ stuff-in attempt at the side of the net, but the puck popped into the slot. Sharp was wide open and fired high into the net before Quick could recover.
The Hawks were in control for most of the second period and outshot Los Angeles 21-10. But Emery had to make several tough saves late in the period – including in-close stops on Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter – to keep the Kings off the scoreboard.
Richards cut it to 3-1 early in the third. With Brown providing a screen at the edge of the crease, Richards’ high shot from the top of the slot sailed past Emery. Richards’ second power-play goal trimmed it to 3-2 with 7:10 left. This time, he beat Emery from the top of the left circle with Brown screening.
NOTES: Before the game, Quenneville said Crawford was “progressing” and is day-to-day. When asked if Crawford’s condition might be long-term, Quenneville replied, “I don’t foresee that yet.” Crawford º who has a 7-0-3 record, 1.65 goals-against average and .935 save percentage – has not skated since sustaining his injury, apparently in a 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim last Tuesday.