CHICAGO - Jonathan Toews set up two of Chicago's three first-period goals, and the Blackhawks cooled off the Los Angeles Kings with a 3-1 victory Sunday night in a rematch of last season's Western Conference finals.
Rookie Antti Raanta made 21 saves to help Chicago bounce back from a 7-3 loss at Toronto on Saturday night. Marian Hossa had a short-handed score that snapped Los Angeles' NHL-record streak of 18 games without allowing a first-period goal.
The Kings (22-8-4) had won six in a row and were hoping to complete a perfect four-game trip in the same building where their Stanley Cup title defence ended in June. But the matchup of the NHL's best offensive team and the league's stingiest defence went to the high-scoring Blackhawks, who have won four of five and lead the NHL with 53 points.
Ben Scrivens had 37 saves for Los Angeles in his first start since Dec. 2, keeping the Kings in the game with a handful of nice stops after the sluggish first period. Scrivens and Martin Jones have done a terrific job in goal since Jonathan Quick was shelved by a groin injury last month.
The defending NHL champion Blackhawks (24-7-5) also were without their top goaltender, Corey Crawford. The 29-year-old Crawford is out with a lower-body injury, and it's unclear when he might return.
Raanta has started every game since Crawford went down on Dec. 8. He made his best stop against Los Angeles in the second, sticking his right skate out to turn away Anze Kopitar on a prime opportunity.
Martinez scored his second goal at 16:06 of the third, and the Kings then had a power-play opportunity when Andrew Shaw was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct. But the Blackhawks managed to kill it off.
Chicago defeated Los Angeles in five games in the playoffs last summer, and went on to win the title for the second time in four seasons. The series against the Kings culminated with a hat trick for Patrick Kane in the deciding game, including the decisive score in the second overtime off a pass from Toews.
Toews picked up right where he left off in the first game of his season between two of the NHL's best teams.
First, he won a battle for the puck with Los Angeles defenceman Jake Muzzin behind the Kings' net, and then threw it in front for Hossa's 14th goal at 5:45 of the first. After Versteeg scored on a 2-on-1 break, Toews made a great cross-ice pass to Sharp for a power-play goal that made it 3-0 with 29 seconds left in the period.
Kane picked up his 26th assist on Versteeg's sixth goal. Kane has at least one point in each of his last nine games and 21 of 22 overall.
NOTES: It was Bryan Bickell bobblehead night, but the big forward remained out with a lower-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville said Bickell probably will accompany the team to Nashville for Tuesday's game against the Predators, but it's more likely he returns on Friday against Vancouver. "He did well today," Quenneville said, "so he's close." ... Kings D Willie Mitchell was scratched due to an illness. He played in each of Los Angeles' first 33 games of the season. ... Quenneville said goaltender Jason LaBarbera "could be in the mix" with the Blackhawks soon. LaBarbera was acquired in a trade with Edmonton on Saturday and assigned to Rockford in the AHL. ... Defenceman Michael Kostka, forward Jeremy Morin and Crawford were scratched for the Blackhawks. ... In addition to Mitchell, Fs Matt Frattin and Linden Vey were scratched for Los Angeles.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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