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Blackhawks need usual penalty-kill success in Game 3

by Corey Masisak / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The past two Stanley Cup champions are facing each other in the Western Conference Final, and one common trait between the 2012 Los Angeles Kings and the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks was strong work on the penalty kill.

The Kings erased 92.1 percent of opponents' power plays during their Cup run in 2012, and the Blackhawks were threatening to top that until the Boston Bruins got to their PK a bit in the Final last season. Chicago finished those playoffs at 90.8 percent.

That's part of why Game 2 of this Stanley Cup Playoff series Wednesday at United Center was so stunning. The game turned when the Kings scored on back-to-back power plays early in the third period of a 6-2 win that evened the best-of-7 series 1-1.

For Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, it wasn't a letdown by the penalty killers. It was a disappointing showing from those who put the Blackhawks in that situation.

"We've got to be better in those areas. You can't take those kind of penalties," Quenneville said. "With the score being the way it was, [the Kings] scoring a couple definitely took the momentum away."

Brandon Bollig was called for interference 1:14 into the third period with the Blackhawks ahead 2-1. Bollig checked Tyler Toffoli into the glass in the neutral zone well after he had released the puck, and it was an easy call for the official to make.

After Jeff Carter tied the game with a power-play goal, the Blackhawks were whistled for too many men on the ice at 2:40. Marcus Kruger was standing at the Chicago bench when Peter Regin hopped over the boards and played the puck.

It's a situation that can be let go because Kruger was so close to leaving the ice, but Regin playing the puck gave the Blackhawks an advantage in transition and they were whistled for the infraction.

Jake Muzzin scored for the Kings to make it 3-2, and Los Angeles surged to three more in the victory.

"I woke up this morning way more angry than [when] I exited the game. Normally it's the other way around," Quenneville said. "Certainly there's a lot of positives to take out of the game. The little details, the way we gave them the goals, I thought we gave them, particularly the first four goals, the penalties, the two goals, one and four, we've got to be more diligent in those areas. They've got to work for their goals. They came rather easily. Against a team that has some skill and playmaking ability, we have to work harder in those areas."

Game 3 is Saturday at Staples Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

The reality for the Blackhawks is the law of averages and regression was going to catch them at some point. Chicago had allowed one power-play goal in seven games at United Center this postseason.

Goaltender Corey Crawford's save percentage with the Blackhawks shorthanded was .934 (54 of 58) before Game 3, which was significantly higher than any goaltender in this postseason who had seen more than 22 shots on the PK. It's still .917 after Game 2, which is higher than Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers (.906), Jonathan Quick of the Kings (.888) and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens (.881).

Hockey analytics has proven percentages on the special teams can fluctuate a great deal, and anything that looks out of the ordinary, either good or bad, eventually almost always is.

The Blackhawks can and probably will be great on the PK in this series, but not putting themselves in that situation at critical junctures of a game is the best course.

"I don't know if it's too much pressure," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. "I think our penalty kill, maybe other than the first month, has been pretty solid overall. You got to give L.A. some credit. They've got a good power play. I think we could have done a lot better job on their goals that they did score on the power play. Maybe they could have gotten one earlier.

"Overall we want to stay out of the penalty box. Even in the first and second [periods] I thought when we were playing well. You know, we took some penalties that kind of slowed things down and we were able to gain the momentum off that. Sometimes you can gain momentum off a good penalty kill. But, you know, penalties are going to happen. I think for the most part we want to try and stay out of the box."

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