By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) — Disaster. That’s one way to describe it.
And that’s exactly how Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville described it after watching his team’s 2-0 lead evaporate with six unanswered goals in Wednesday’s 6-2 loss to the Kings in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
“The way it turned on a dime like that, I don’t know if we’ve seen a game like that all year where we’re doing everything right and then all the sudden it was a disaster,” the head coach said.
Through almost two periods, it appeared the Blackhawks were in cruise control, prepared to head to Los Angeles with a 2-0 series lead.
So how did the game change so quickly?
Late period goals tend to change momentum, but the Kings weren’t pointing to Justin Williams’ late second period goal as the turning point. Instead, they said the turning point came minutes earlier when Jonathan Quick turned aside a Brent Seabrook breakaway opportunity that would have made it a 3-0 game.
“It was a big save,” Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp admitted. “Give him credit.”
Seabrook took a nice feed from Kris Versteeg on the 2-on-1 breakaway and appeared to have an easy goal. But it certainly wasn’t the first time Quick erased an easy goal and it won’t be the last.
“Seabrook is a right shot, so it’s a different angle than if it was a one-timer opportunity,” Quick said. “So you’re just trying to get over to the post and just fortunate to get a piece of it.”
The truth is, while Quick made a great save, he shouldn’t have even had a chance. Seabrook had most of the right side of the net open. He shot it too close to the middle of the net and didn’t have enough elevation.
Of course, the Blackhawks still had a 2-0 lead and were in total control of the game.
“I really liked how we played for 38 minutes,” Quenneville said.
It was that 39th minute when things started to unravel. Williams’ goal was pretty innocent (it bounced off his skate and Crawford never saw it) but it was enough to get a good team on the board.
And apparently during the second intermission, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter didn’t need to say much.
“At some point they are going to lose a game at home,” he said when asked what he told his players. “They’re not going to win all of them.”
Sutter would be proven correct, as the Hawks lost their first playoff game at home after winning the first seven.
A bad interference penalty on Brandon Bollig put the Kings on the power play 1:14 into the third period and Jeff Carter scored 23 seconds later when he deflected Drew Doughty’s shot past Crawford. It would be one of three goals for Carter in the period, as he completed his hat trick with an empty netter.
But it was the fourth goal that was probably the hardest for the Blackhawks to swallow. An initial blocker save by Crawford went up on the air and looked like it was headed for the netting behind the glass. It wasn’t though. As the Blackhawks anticipated a whistle, the puck came down on the ice behind the net and Tanner Pearson quickly fed Tyler Toffoli to put the Kings up 4-2.
“I don’t know if they thought it hit the netting above the glass or what but it seemed like everybody kind of stopped and Tanner and Tyler made a great play to keep going,” Carter said. “There’s no whistle so you play until they blow it.”
Stanley Cup champions shouldn’t need that lesson, but apparently the Blackhawks did Wednesday night.
“It just goes to show you what can happen when you take your foot off the gas, when you make a few mistakes, when you let up for a few shifts,” Sharp said. “That’s a quality team over there. They won a Stanley Cup and they’re hungry for more.”
The Blackhawks should know. The Kings are a lot like them in that they are at their best when their backs are against the wall. Los Angeles has already won six elimination games in this year’s playoffs and the Kings can’t be taken lightly at any point in a series. The Sharks (up 3-0 on the Kings in the first round) and Ducks (up 3-2 on the Kings in the second round) already found that out the hard way.
Lesson learned? Maybe. The Kings may have lost to the Blackhawks in five games last year, but they’re healthier this time around and won’t roll over.
Of course, neither will the Blackhawks.
Adam Hoge is a senior writer for CBSChicago.com and a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.