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updated: 5/22/2014 5:48 AM

Hawks were warned this would not be easy

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  • Los Angeles Kings Dustin Brown celebrates after teammate Jake Muzzin scores the go-ahead goal against the Blackhawks in the third period.

      Los Angeles Kings Dustin Brown celebrates after teammate Jake Muzzin scores the go-ahead goal against the Blackhawks in the third period.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Blackhawks were warned.

They knew the Kings would be a different team with a couple days off, a different team than the one that had to fly four hours and play Game 1 only 39 hours after finishing Game 7 against Anaheim.

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They understood from last year against Detroit in a similar situation that this would be a more prepared Kings hockey team in Game 2.

They know the Kings won the Stanley Cup two years ago, are healthier than last year and they watched Los Angeles become the first team ever to win three straight games in two straight series to open the playoffs.

They knew this would not be easy.

Yes, they were warned.

But these are the Hawks and they don't ever seem to take a match seriously until they absolutely have to, and they proved it again Wednesday night at the UC.

After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, Los Angeles came storming back to score 6 straight goals -- including 5 in the third period -- to defeat the Hawks 6-2 and tie the Western Conference finals at 1-1.

"We know what they're capable of and we have a lot of respect for that team. It's no secret what they can do," said Patrick Sharp. "We played a really good first period and most of the second. We just need to finish it off."

In Game 2 a year ago, the Hawks beat Jonathan Quick to the tune of 4 goals on 17 shots in 29 minutes and put the best goaltender in the world on the bench. They were a shot or two away from the same Wednesday when Quick made the save of the game.

The Hawks played a brilliant first period and nearly put the game away in the second when Kris Versteeg picked up a loose puck on a 2-on-1 with 7:19 left and fed Brent Seabrook for the 2-foot putt, but Quick read the pass and beat Seabrook to keep it 2-0 Hawks.

That's when Drew Doughty slammed his stick on the boards and let his teammates know the series would be over fast if they didn't turn it around.

"We were giving up a lot of odd-man breaks and Drew wasn't too happy," said a smiling Anze Kopitar. "We figured we better stop making it so hard for Quickie."

Five minutes later, Mike Richards got to a loose puck and fed it toward the front, where a hard-charging Justin Williams got a good bounce off his right skate and through Corey Crawford's pads to cut the lead to 2-1 with just 1:46 left in the second period.

The Hawks entered the game with a postseason-best 92 percent penalty kill and the Kings were 0-for-5 in the series when Darryl Sutter made a crucial adjustment for a power play early in the third, sending two men to the front of the net instead of one.

Los Angeles scored twice with the man advantage in the first 4:04 of the third for a 3-2 Los Angeles lead, and made it 4-2 about five minutes later when the Hawks thought a deflected shot was out of play.

While they stood and watched, Tanner Pearson picked up the puck behind the net and fed Tyler Toffoli, who beat Crawford through a Nick Leddy screen.

The Hawks got caught pinching and a 2-on-1 led to the fifth goal, followed by an empty-netter for Jeff Carter's hat trick.

"The way it turned on a dime like that," said Joel Quenneville, "I don't know if we've seen a game like that all year where we're doing everything right and all of a sudden it was a disaster."

It's the most goals the Hawks have allowed in the postseason since May 24, 2009, in a 6-1 loss to Detroit in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

"It was closer than the final score," Crawford said. "Just one of those games where we were forced to open it up. Hard team to play against when they have the lead."

The good news is the Hawks played their best game of the postseason for about 35 minutes. The bad news is after that, Crawford was bad, their defense was bad, the penalty kill was bad and their effort matched all of the above.

"We're bound to give up a goal. Just because we give up one late in the second doesn't mean we have to give up six," said a frustrated Jonathan Toews. "We have to find a way to play the third period like we did the first and second. We got what we deserved the way we played in the third."

For any other team, such a collapse would be disheartening, but for the Stanley Cup champs, well, this is what they do.

Now, they're in for a fight -- and a shock to the system always seems to bring out their best.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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