LOS ANGELES | No Duncan Keith? No problem.
With the former Norris Trophy winner serving a one-game suspension Thursday night, the Blackhawks found a way, and their 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals moved them tantalizingly close to a return to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In taking a 3-1 series lead over the defending champions, Chicago became the first visiting team to win in Staples Center this postseason.
The Hawks did so by spreading the burden.
Marian Hossa’s goal 1:10 into in the third period, off a two-on-one rush with Michal Handzus, was the decider, and that was largely because the Hawks clamped down defensively in the final period. Los Angeles was held to two shots on goal in the period and was impotent on a crucial power play late in the period, after Michael Frolik went off for high-sticking at 15:23.
Hawks defensemen blocked seven L.A. shots, and the top four of Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michal Rozsival and Johnny Oduya all had more than 20 minutes ice time, with Seabrook logging 26:20 and seeming to be paired with every other defenseman on the active roster at one time or another.
Sheldon Brookbank, who hadn’t played yet in the playoffs, was tapped to replace Keith on Thursday night. He played 6:50 and was on the ice for both L.A. goals, but it worked out.
“This is a very deep team,” Rozsival said. “It’s not about individuals on this team. The whole team is pulling on the same rope, and has been pulling on it all season and in the playoffs.
“It’s great to see all the guys contribute, even if we’re missing a guy, like Dunks (Keith). That’s the most offensive defenseman on the team."
Hjalmarsson, who played 24:57, assisted on the Hawks’ first two goals. After Slava Voynov’s sixth goal of the postseason at 3:28 of the first period on a bullet from the top of the slot, Bryan Bickell scored his seventh at 13:16 on a knuckler that deflected off Jonathan Quick’s glove and into the net.
Bickell had an even better chance against Quick right in front of the net late in the first period but couldn’t score.
L.A. went back up 2-1 early in the second period when Dustin Penner jammed in a rebound that Corey Crawford conveniently left in the crease after Jeff Carter’s weak spin-o-rama attempt.
The Hawks got a contribution from the heretofore missing man when Patrick Kane broke a seven-game goal scoring drought at 18:21 of the second period. Hjalmarsson unloaded from above the circles; Bickell tipped it, and the puck trickled through Quick’s pads. Kane pounced on it before it crossed the goal line.
“I think we had a lot more chances compared to last game,” Bickell said. “We just tried to stick to our game plan and grind them down, and I felt we accomplished that.”
Hjalmarsson said the mindset among the remaining defenseman didn’t change, and nobody felt the need to try to do more.
“That’s not the type of player I am,” he said. “I never try to do too much out there. I kind of know my limits, and I stick to them.”
And now the Hawks will get Keith back for Game 5 Saturday night at United Center, when they’ll have an opportunity to end the Kings’ reign and put themselves back in the Finals for the first time since 2010.
“We had the goal to at least steal one game here,” Hjalmarsson said.