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NHL: Hot goaltending leads Blackhawks to 1-0 series lead over Kings
First Published May 19 2014 09:34 am • Last Updated May 20 2014 07:35 pm

Chicago • Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks had plenty of questions after they had a goal disallowed in Game 1 of the Western Conference final.

Corey Crawford left no doubt about his play.

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Crawford made 25 saves, Toews had a big goal in the third period and the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 on Sunday for their third consecutive victory.

"Confidence has always been there," Crawford said. "Really the first thing is being prepared, having that preparation to try and have my game at the highest level it can be each time I get out there."

He is on quite a roll right now, allowing only one goal in each of the past three games. The 29-year-old Crawford leads the NHL with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in the playoffs.

"I think Crow just keeps getting better and better," Toews said. "As a team, you want to keep raising your level of play as the stage gets bigger and bigger. But I think if there’s anyone that’s doing that, it’s Crow."

Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist for defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, which remained perfect in seven home playoff games this season. Duncan Keith had a tiebreaking score in the third period.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night.

Playing just two days after a Game 7 victory over Anaheim, the Kings got a second-period score from Tyler Toffoli and outshot the Blackhawks 26-20 in the opener of a rematch of last year’s Western Conference final. But Crawford made a couple of solid stops in another terrific performance.

"I think we can do a better [job]of getting in front of the net and make it harder on their goalie because we had some pretty good shots, but nobody was hanging around, so he was able to see everything," Kings center Anze Kopitar said.


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With the Blackhawks clinging to a 2-1 lead in the third, Toews, Marian Hossa and Johnny Oduya got loose on a 3-on-1 break. Toews one-timed Oduya’s pass by Jonathan Quick for his sixth playoff goal at 16:10.

Quick made 17 saves after he played a key role in Los Angeles’ rally from a 3-2 deficit in the series against the Ducks. The Kings also battled back from a 3-0 hole against San Jose in the first round.

"We had a chance," Los Angeles forward Mike Richards said. "We shot ourselves in the foot a bit on their goals, and give them credit, they’re an opportunistic team. But we made a couple of mistakes and it ended up in our net."

Toews’ 26th career playoff goal came after he had one waved off in a confusing stretch in the second period.

It looked as if Chicago had a 2-0 lead when Toews’ rush to the net resulted in the puck going in off the skate of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov. But the goal was waved off after a conference by the officials, prompting a round of boos from the crowd of 21,832 and a waving, yelling display from Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

According to the NHL, the original call of good goal was changed because the officials decided Toews made incidental contact with Quick before the puck crossed the goal line. The league said the ruling was not reviewable, so the call on the ice remained in place.

The sequence seemed to wake up the Kings while deflating the Blackhawks. Los Angeles got its first goal about a minute later, with Tanner Pearson making a terrific pass to the middle to Toffoli for his fourth of the playoffs at 4:35.

"I thought we lost a little momentum there," Quenneville said.

The Kings then had a couple of chances to take the lead, but Crawford stepped up each time. He denied Kyle Clifford on a 2-on-1 break with 13:42 remaining, and he stopped Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown in rapid succession midway through the period.

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