Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Duncan Keith registered the winner late in the second period and Corey Crawford stopped 25 pucks as the Chicago Blackhawks got the jump on the Los Angeles Kings by a 3-1 count in the opener of the Western Conference finals from United Center on Sunday.
Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews added tallies for the Blackhawks, while Marian Hossa contributed a pair of assists.
"I thought we had a good first five minutes, but it was even the rest of the way. Every shift is going to be important," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville.
Tyler Toffoli provided the sole offense and Jonathan Quick made just 17 saves for the Kings, who were coming off a Game 7 road win in Anaheim.
Los Angeles, which has played 15 postseason games thus far, will have an extra day to regroup with Game 2 on tap for Wednesday.
"We had a chance," Kings forward Mike Richards said. "We shot ourselves in the foot a bit on their goals. Give them credit, they're an opportunistic team. We made a couple mistakes and they ended up in our net."
With just over two minutes played in the third, and his club behind by a goal, Toffoli was in alone on the right wing, but flipped the puck off the near post after crossing through the middle to pull Crawford out of position.
The Blackhawks finally gained the insurance marker with 3:50 left in regulation off a 3-on-1 break, when Johnny Oduya laid a perfect pass into the right circle for a one-timer by Toews which had Quick diving at air.
Quick was on the bench for an extra attacker for most of the final 3 1/2 minutes, but the Kings only had a handful of chances that were not dangerous.
"We've just gotta do a better job of getting in front of the net. We're creating the chances but we have to finish," noted Kings captain Anze Kopitar.
Nick Leddy's left-point blast on Chicago's first power play made it through Quick thanks to Saad's screen and deflection to give the hosts a lead with 5:14 to play in the opening period.
Despite their exhausting playoff course, the Kings attacked the defending champions and outshot them by a 17-6 margin in the middle 20 minutes. However, the best break ultimately went to the Blackhawks.
Rushing from the right wing to the crease, Toews tangled with Quick in front and the puck ticked off the skate of LA defenseman Slava Voynov and slid in. The goal was waved off after a brief discussion due to contact with the goaltender at 3:22 of the second.
The Kings responded just over a minute later, as Toffoli went to the net and tapped in a cross-ice dish from Tanner Pearson for a 1-1 game.
Chicago eventually produced the lead goal with 8:06 showing, after Keith's left- point blast caromed off the sticks of a pair of Kings en route and sailed over Quick's glove.
"It helps," Keith said when asked about scoring from the defense corps. "There are five guys on the ice, so there's no reason why five guys can't be in on the play."
The Blackhawks improved to 7-0 at the United Center this postseason and 18-2 in their past 20 home playoff games ... According to Elias, Chicago is the first NHL team to win 18 of 20 home playoff games since Edmonton did the same from April 7, 1988-May 2, 1990 ... Sunday's opener marked the first time two teams met in the Western finals in back-to-back years since the Stars/Avalanche in 1999-2000 ... The Kings welcomed back defenseman Willie Mitchell, who had been sidelined since Game 6 of the first round with a lower- body injury suspected to be a leg issue.