LOS ANGELES — The Blackhawks trailed the Kings by only one goal late into Thursday night.
But the close score belied the true imbalance of the game –at least until a two-goals-in-15-seconds Kings explosion halfway through the third period matched it up with reality. In actuality, the Hawks showed virtually nothing in their eventual 4-1 loss.
“We had no energy,” interim coach Derek King said. “We had no emotion in the game. We were frustrated. The guys, everything they did, it just wasn’t working. And put on top of that, that [Kings] team came out and they were flying. They’re a desperate hockey team, they needed the points, and they showed.”
After the first period, scoring chances favored the Kings, 18-2. Halfway through the game, the Hawks had recorded just six shots on goal. The final statistics weren’t much friendlier: scoring chances were 42-13, shots on goal were 36-16. Both tied season lows for the Hawks offensively.
“You’re not going to win a hockey game with six shots,” King added. “And if you do, you start the bus and you get out of here real quick.”
The Kings’ big third-period minute, featuring a breakaway goal by Andreas Athanasiou and a two-on-one goal by Trevor Moore, initially seemed even more disastrous for the Hawks when goalie Collin Delia (31 saves) needed to be helped off the ice after Moore’s tap-in. But it turned out Delia was just cramping rather than injured, King said.
The win further secured the Kings’ hold on the Pacific Division’s third automatic playoff spot. They now lead the Golden Knights by five points; the Kings have three games left, the Knights have four. The Stars’ loss Thursday to the Flames makes them, not the Kings, now the Western Conference playoff team most vulnerable to a Knights charge.
The Hawks, meanwhile, fell 26-41-11 with — mercifully — just four games left. They weren’t able to muster much spirit for the second leg of the road back-to-back.
“The energy level was a little lower than a day we have off or a practice day,” Dylan Strome admitted. “[But] we’re all professionals. That’s part of the game. Everyone has to do back-to-backs throughout the season. So it’s just the way it went tonight.”