The Chicago Blackhawks seized the early advantage in the Western Conference final with a series-opening 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
In a rematch of last year’s conference final, won by Chicago in five games, Corey Crawford made 25 saves and the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks got some timely offense to start the best-of-seven series.
Game Two is in Chicago on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks are trying to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
On Sunday, they kept the Kings in check.
Duncan Keith broke a 1-1 tie with his go-ahead goal midway through the second period, and Jonathan Toews punctuated the win with his sixth goal of the playoffs at 16:10 in the third.
“They have a good team obviously over there,” said Kings forward Anze Kopitar. “We're going to have to do a better job of checking, of not giving up timely goals and score a few more ourselves.”
Brandon Saad opened the scoring at 14:46 in the first, and Chicago appeared to take a 2-0 lead early in the second, but Toews had a goal disallowed for incidental contact with Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The Kings capitalized when center Tyler Toffoli evened the count about a minute later.
“There's always going to be adversity in the course of a game, you're going to lose momentum,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “Against a team like that, you want to get it back as quick as you can.”
The Kings are facing their own challenges, but are no strangers to series comebacks. Los Angeles overcame a 3-0 series hole in the first round and rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the second round to reach their third consecutive conference final.
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Gene Cherry)