No time to lose

CHICAGO -- To the amateur eye, hockey is a game dependent on a puck bouncing, spinning and changing directions with a mind of its own.

Or to be succinct: luck.

If you want to win this time of year, or any time of year, against a goaltender like the Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Quick, you have to bury the rebounds and create the deflections. In other words, you have to create your own luck.

Because you know what they say about luck in the NHL playoffs: It's just opportunity meeting preparation meeting oversized goalie pads.

"Yeah, that first shot against him is tough," Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You need traffic. You need a deflection. He finds a way to find pucks."

Or as Patrick Sharp said of Quick, "He makes saves when he sees the puck, he makes saves when he doesn't see them."

The Blackhawks had plenty of opportunities early against Quick but no success. But when they got chances in the second period, they buried them and the Los Angeles Kings with a 2-1 victory, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Chicago held a 17-2 shot advantage in the first period, and the Kings didn't get their first shot until there was 8:11 left. It took only one more for the Kings to take a lead off a Justin Williams shot off a funky bounce off a Corey Crawford backhand clear attempt from behind the goal.

When asked how he acted after that first period, Kings coach Darryl Sutter told reporters they should ask him how he felt instead.

So, how did he feel?

"Fortunate," Sutter said with a smile.

That wouldn't last. Quick made 34 saves, but Chicago needed only two to go in.

Neither Crawford nor the rest of the Blackhawks were bothered by a one-goal deficit.

"It just took a weird bounce, so what?" Crawford said of the goal. "No one was worried in here."

As for the Blackhawks' first-period shots not producing any goals, Sharp said no one was peeking at the scoreboard.

"Sure, you want to send the puck to the net whenever you can," he said. "But we don't get caught up too much on statistics or shots on net."

So it makes sense that the second period was much closer, as the Blackhawks outshot the Kings only 14-12, but the Hawks got a pair of goals in the period on a rebound and a deflection. As Quenneville said, it's all about traffic and volume.

With 7 minutes left in the second, Sharp evened it when he fired on a rebound when Johnny Oduya's shot bounced off Quick's left leg pad. Sharp was in perfect position to make the play because he was prepared. A lifetime of hockey set him up for that one. Pure muscle memory.

"That's something I think every team works on in practice," Sharp said. "Shoot off that pad and going up for that rebound. I was fortunate it came right to me."

Four minutes later, the Hawks got their game winner when Marian Hossa planted himself in front of the net and deflected a Duncan Keith slap shot past Quick.

Before the game, Hossa showed his playful side when he winked at the camera during the national anthem. This wasn't a Michael Jordan "I got this" wink, though. Hossa said it was for his buddies in Slovakia, who were watching the game at a bar.

"They called me before the game and said they were going to watch, so I had to give them a signal," Hossa said.

I'm sure many a glass of (Google Slovakian beer here) was raised after his goal.

I'm fairly sure a good amount of drinks were consumed in celebration, rather than agony, all over Chicago.

If this game lacked the urgency of the previous three, especially this past week's overtime Game 7 win over the Detroit Red Wings, then that's OK. There were no between-periods trip the pharmacy for blood pressure medicine, no breathing into a paper bag. The Blackhawks had this under control, as evidenced by a last-minute power play when the Hawks answered Los Angeles' pressure by playing keep-away.

"That's what we wanted to do," Patrick Kane said. "It was exactly what we wanted to do as far as moving around and keep it away from them. We've seen before where that can kind of haunt you if you have a power play and turn around and do something stupid and [they] intercept a pass and they can come down and score."

For a team tired of talking about the past and focused on the present, that kind of attention to detail is what separates teams in a sport of funny bounces. The Kings got only 22 shots on goal against Crawford, though he made a number of good saves, especially in a third-period penalty kill.

It's clear the Hawks' confidence gained from those must-win games against Detroit, from nearly attending their own playoff funeral, has sharpened their game.

But yet, the Blackhawks want to get back to playing at that do-or-die pace from Game 7, and no one felt they were quite there yet.

"Every series gets more physical and intense as it goes along," Sharp said. "Both teams played a strong game for Game 1. Weren't a whole lot of scoring chances from both sides. Probably going to see a lot more of that going forward."