At the start of the new month, the Blackhawks returned to old home habits with their 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings, their first home win since their Feb. 14 victory over Dallas. If the Hawks hope to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race, they knew that they were going to have to play better than they had in their two previous home games, both losses.
“This was a big win for us,” said Jonathan Toews
. “It’s always nerve-wracking when you only have a one-goal lead, but we’ve got to be happy about the way we finished off the game today.“
After being forced to play from behind Friday against Pittsburgh, the Hawks made it a priority to get a fast start Sunday, and goals by Toews and Duncan Keith
within the first seven minutes of play gave them a two-goal advantage early.
“The good start is just what we were looking for,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “The game was tight and the game was tough throughout. We did what we had to do to win.”
“We talked about going out and getting a quick start – we had to feed off of our fans and use that energy to our advantage,” said Keith. ”It’s not like we were out of our last three game – we could have had points in all of them – but we let them slip away. We knew we just had to bear down on those few things we let slip and we did that tonight.”
Sunday’s victory forced the Hawks to rely on both their strong offense and a stingy defense for support; what began as a five-goal shootout in the first period became a defensive struggle as the Hawks clung a one-goal advantage in the second and third periods.
“I think in a lot of ways we played the same way we had played in our last few,” Toews said, “but this time we were able to put three periods together and finish it off.”
In his first career NHL start, goaltender Antti Niemi seemed to get stronger as the game went on. After giving up two goals in the first period, he held the Kings off the board for the rest of regulation.
“We wanted to play hard for Antti in his first start,” said Duncan Keith
. “We tried to limit their good scoring chances as much as we could; they still got some looks at the net, but he was there. I think he’ll be good for us.”
“It was nice to see Niemi get a win in his first start,” Quenneville said. “It’s probably a little nerve-wracking to get the opportunity, but I like how he settled down as the game progressed.”
Quenneville said that he was pleased to see his team hold onto the slim lead after the Hawks' rough last week; both of Chicago’s recent home losses were by one-goal margins.
“Three losses in a row get your attention, and our recent home record hasn’t been that good,” he said. “We had such a good stretch early on that we wanted to reestablish our home ice presence. It was good that we got back to our winning ways.”