|CHI Leads Series 2 - 0|
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks never thought it would be this easy, not against the defending Stanley Cup champions and their previously red-hot goalie.
But it was Sunday night at United Center, where the Blackhawks chased Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick from the net midway through the second period en route to a relatively easy 4-2 victory that gave them a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Final. Chicago has won five in a row going back to Game 5 against the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semifinals.
Game 3 is Tuesday at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), where the Kings have won 14 in a row, including the past seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"Whoever is shooting the puck, we feel as a team that we have the confidence that it's going to go in at some point," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "So we'll keep shooting the puck, creating those chances and trying to take his [Quick's] confidence away."
The Blackhawks got goals off clean shots from Andrew Shaw and Brent Seabrook in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead. Bryan Bickell scored on the power play and Michal Handzus beat Quick on a 2-on-1 in the second to make it 4-0, forcing Kings coach Darryl Sutter to replace the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner with Jonathan Bernier at the 9:20 mark of the second period.
Handzus and Bickell scored their goals 2:09 apart.
"We had some nice shots," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had some high-quality stuff off the rush, as well. I still think that's going to be an ongoing challenge with him. Some nights they go in."
Rarely do four go in against Quick, who had gone 34 consecutive games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs without allowing more than three goals -- and he did that four times over the 34-game span. The last time he had allowed four goals was April 25, 2011, when the San Jose Sharks needed overtime in Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals to eliminate the Kings.
He hadn't been pulled from a playoff game since April 23, 2010, when he gave up four goals to the Vancouver Canucks but came back in to finish the game after Erik Ersberg allowed two more in a 7-2 loss in Game 5 of the conference quarterfinals.
"We just haven't been finding a way," said Quick, who fell to 1-7 on the road in the playoffs. "We have to find a way. They did their job. Now we have to go home and do our job."
The Kings have been in this position before, down 0-2 going home against the St. Louis Blues in the conference quarterfinals. They won four in a row to win the series in six games.
"When you win that many in a row , you've got to lose at some point," Chicago right wing Patrick Kane said. "Hopefully we can be that team to take it from them, but the focus is on Game 3 now and playing the way we did the first two periods [Sunday] and seeing what happens. It seems like we have a lot of momentum. We'll try to keep that. It's a big game. It's a huge game."
But is it a game that Kings center Mike Richards will be able to dress for?
After skating in pregame warmups, Richards was unable to play in Game 2 because of an upper-body injury, likely a result of Chicago center Dave Bolland's hard hit on him with 1:52 to play in the third period of Game 1. Tyler Toffoli, who had a goal and an assist, played in place of Richards. Jeff Carter, who also scored a goal, had to move to center on the second line.
"He was fine [Sunday afternoon], then I think just once his blood got pumping, the adrenaline got going, there were symptoms," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of Richards. "I went in right after warmup, he was sitting there and I said, 'Unless you're 100 percent, you're not playing."
The Blackhawks are playing at 100 percent and their depth, speed and skill is showing as a result.
Their four goals Sunday came from their top three lines and their power play. Seabrook and Handzus scored off the rush and Shaw's goal came off a Kings' defensive zone turnover. For the second straight game, Chicago's speed helped to negate the Kings' forecheck, putting L.A. on its heels, especially in the second period.
Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad each added two assists.
"We're finding ways to put them in vulnerable positions," Toews said.
"For the most part, we're just focusing on what we have to do and trying to make them worry about us in all areas of the rink," he added later.
Los Angeles had chances in the first period, when it managed 13 shots on Chicago goalie Corey Crawford (29 saves), but they all came after Shaw's goal 1:54 into the game gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead. Seabrook beat Quick with a low, far side/blocker side shot from the right circle with 50.4 seconds left before the first intermission to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
"I thought we outplayed them in the first period for the most part, but the score didn't make it count," Quick said.
The Blackhawks blew it open in the second, when Bickell was credited with a power-play goal at the 7:11 mark after gaining inside position on Robyn Regehr and Drew Doughty. Handzus scored off a 2-on-1 rush at 9:20 to send Quick to the bench.
Bickell got the goal on the power play, but Regehr was the one who actually shot the puck through Quick's five-hole. The rebound of Sharp's shot from the blue line caromed off Bickell's glove and the puck went down to the ice. Regehr chopped at it and sent it into the net.
"I tried to get the puck rather than getting the stick, and I think it hit my stick and went in," Regehr said. "Gotta tie up the guy a little bit better and let Jonathan find the puck."
Quick struggled to find the puck Sunday. It was a rare sight, one the Blackhawks don't think they can bank on happening again.
"He'll bounce back," Bickell said.
It may not be enough if the Blackhawks continue to keep throwing their game right down the Kings' throats when the series resumes at Staples Center on Tuesday.
"We know how well the Kings play in their building," Sharp said. "The series is just getting started really."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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