Hossa pushes 'Hawks past Kings to take early West final lead
Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa celebrates his second period goal against the Los Angeles Kings as teammate Jonathan Toews looks on during Game 1 of their NHL Western Conference final hockey playoff game in Chicago, Illinois, June 1, 2013. (REUTERS)
Marian Hossa was simply hoping to show some friends he was thinking of them.
Turns out the Chicago Blackhawks star winger may have stumbled upon a lucky charm.
As the camera closed in on him during the raucous national anthem prior to the opener of the NHL Western Conference final, Hossa gave a wink.
“Lots of my friends back home (in Slovakia) were watching at the bar. I was just giving them some signal,” he said. “They called me before the game, said they were going to watch. Hopefully they saw the signal.”
His buddies may not have spied the game Hossa played with his eye, but they couldn't miss his impact as Hossa scored the game-winning goal in Saturday's 2-1 victory, issuing Chicago first blood against the Los Angeles Kings in their best-of-seven series.
A few minutes after the Blackhawks erased a one-goal deficit, Hossa was on the spot to break open the deadlock late in the second period with a picture-perfect deflection off Duncan Keith's point shot that found a way past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
It proved to be enough against a Kings team which is struggling to score despite reaching the third round of the playoffs in their quest to defend their Stanley Cup title.
“It’s a great start,” Hossa said. “It’s always good for the confidence for the team to get a first win, but we just started and we know we need to be better tomorrow.”
Game 2 goes Sunday in the Windy City.
The series was a showdown between the reigning Cup champs and the regular-season title holders, and Chicago pulled out a workmanlike victory that required overcoming a bit of adversity.
“Today you could talk about every players' contribution to the team game,” head coach Joel Quenneville said. “That's what we're going to need and what we look forward to.”
Despite being the better team by far in the opening frame, the hosts trailed by a goal and needed to find a way to solve Kings netminder Jonathan Quick or risk becoming frustrated.
Enter Patrick Sharp, the Hawks goal-scoring leader in these playoffs who pounced on a rebound to draw the hosts even a couple of minutes past the midway point.
No team in the NHL's West is better than the Hawks at quickly turning one goal into multiple goals, and Hossa gave the frenzied United Center crowd of 21,535 another reason to erupt before the intermission.
From that point, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford held the fort in a 21-save outing.
The Madhouse on Madison was at a deafening decibel before the drop of the puck – seriously, being in the United Center during the boisterous anthem belongs on the bucket list of any hockey fan – and the fans were ready to erupt with the way the Blackhawks were generating all kinds of shots, but Justin Williams silenced the crowd when he opened the scoring late in the first period.
Williams, the Game 7 hero for Los Angeles, was on the spot when David Bolland attempted to clear the puck from the front of his net, only to see the puck ricochet off the Kings forward's stick and past Corey Crawford.
It was just the second shot of the game for the visitors, who were outgunned in the first 20 minutes by a 17-2 edge.
But the Blackhawks, who have now won four straight games in these playoffs, stuck with the plan and came up with the deserved result.
As for the Kings, Quick was outstanding in a 34-save outing, but it wasn't enough for a team which had been held to one goal in four of its last six outings and tallied just nine times in that spell.
“I think the two guys that scored for them are going to score goals,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said. “We have guys that have to score goals.”