Chicago, IL – While defending champion Los Angeles has become well-versed in dealing with one-goal contests this postseason, Chicago is the team which has found a formula for winning those tight games.
Marian Hossa's tally late in the middle period was the game winner, sending the Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory over the Kings in Saturday's Game 1 of the Western Conference finals from United Center.
"It's always great when you win the first game, especially in a back-to-back, give you a little momentum," Hossa said. "I felt like we did lots of good things today."
Patrick Sharp registered the other goal for the Blackhawks, who were coming off an emotional 2-1 overtime victory to dispatch the rival Red Wings in a Game 7 on Wednesday.
Corey Crawford needed to make just 21 saves to record his ninth win of these playoffs.
Justin Williams potted the lone score for the Kings, who fell to 1-4 in their last five games decided by the slimmest of margins. The lone victory in the bunch -- a 2-1 decision in Game 7 over San Jose this past Tuesday -- landed the visitors in the conference finals for the second consecutive season.
"Scoring doesn't simply come from the offensive zone," Williams said. "It comes from being good in your own zone, breaking out together and scoring off the rush. We didn't have enough of that."
Jonathan Quick held up well in defeat, stopping 34 shots, but his teammates were held to two goals or less for the 10th time in 14 games beyond the regular season.
This best-of-seven set continues on Sunday night in Chicago.
Chicago evened the score at 12:29 of the second, as Sharp followed up Johnny Oduya's left-wing shot and beat his defender to the puck before besting a diving Quick from the slot.
"That first shot is tough," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You need traffic. You need a deflection. He finds a way to find pucks. I think the volume of shots and traffic is the only way to get to this guy."
The hosts then took a 2-1 edge as 3:38 remained on the second-period clock after Hossa's mid-air redirection of Duncan Keith's left-point offering settled home inside the far post.
"He's one of the fastest goalies in the league," Hossa said of Quick. "Whatever he sees, he's going to stop it. You have to have traffic in front of him, pin him in the blue paint, and put lots of pucks in the corners or in his feet and go for the second chances."
Crawford came up with eight saves and Quick five in a tight-checking third period.
Only 1:41 remained in the contest when Chicago was awarded a power play as Kings forward Jeff Carter was sent off for tripping, derailing LA's chances to skate with an extra attacker in the final moments.
Seconds before the call, 'Hawks forward Dave Bolland appeared to leave his feet to deliver a check to the head of LA's Mike Richards, an action which went unnoticed by the officials.
Despite a 17-2 shot disadvantage, the Kings picked up the lone goal of the first period.
Crawford attempted to clear a puck from behind his net, but it first skittered off the stick of Brad Richardson, slithered away from Bolland's stick and then caromed off the stick of Williams and in from the left side of the crease with 5:37 on the clock.
"You give up 17 shots in a period, even if they're coming from outside or from the walls, it means you're not playing the right way, or playing much in their zone," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "We've gotta have more time in the offensive zone to establish our game. We've gotta put more pucks behind their defense and forecheck as units as five."
These clubs met for the first and only time in the postseason back in 1974, with the Blackhawks winning the West Division semifinals four games to one ... Chicago improved to 4-1 in games decided by one goal in the 2013 postseason, while Los Angeles fell to 6-6 ... Kings forward Jarret Stoll returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an apparent concussion when hit in the head by San Jose's Raffi Torres during Game 1 of the previous round ... The two-first period shots by the Kings matched a low for these playoffs, after a similar effort in the third period in Game 3 of the ECQF vs. St. Louis, a 1-0 win ... In addition, the 17 shots against was the most allowed by the Kings in a period in these playoffs, one better than the previous high of 16 by San Jose in the third period of a 2-0 Kings victory in the opening contest.