Hawks roll to 3-1 lead in Western Conference finals

By Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune reporter

LOS ANGELES — Marian Hossa hasn’t had a whole lot of room to roam during the Blackhawks’ series against the Kings.

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Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa celebrates his go-ahead goal with Patrick Sharp, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Michal Handzus during 3-2 win over the Kings. (Scott Strazzante/Tribune)

When he got some Thursday night, the veteran winger wasted no time in firing the puck past goaltender Jonathan Quick for the winning goal in the Hawks’ 3-2 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at the Staples Center. The win gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that will continue with Game 5 on Saturday night at the United Center.

Hossa’s winner came when he broke in 2-on-1 with Michal Handzus, received a pass from the veteran center and blasted a one-timer from the right circle past Quick.

“I saw (Handzus) with the puck in the neutral zone,” Hossa said. “All of a sudden, everything opened up. He just patiently waited for me to open, and I knew he was going to pass it to me. It was a perfect pass right in my wheelhouse. I just tried to hit it high, and the puck went in.”

Bryan Bickell had a goal and an assist and Patrick Kane also scored to provide the offense for goalie Corey Crawford, who outdueled Quick to earn the win. The Hawks snapped the Kings’ 15-game winning streak at home — including eight in a row during the playoffs — to put them on the brink of a Stanley Cup Final berth.

“It was nice to come in and steal one for sure,” said Kane, who snapped a seven-game goal-less skid to even the score at 2-2 in the second. “We put ourselves in a good spot, but by no means do we feel this series is over. You know they’re going to come out with their best game in Game 5. We have a great opportunity to close it out, though, at home. It’s a huge opportunity for us.”

Crawford allowed goals by Slava Voynov and Dustin Penner but came up big on several Kings chances to help the Hawks overcome the absence of top defenseman Duncan Keith, who was suspended for Game 4 after a high-sticking incident with Jeff Carter in Game 3 on Tuesday night. Niklas Hjalmarsson added two assists as the Hawks twice rallied after falling behind against a Kings team playing without top forward Mike Richards (concussion).

“It’s a big difference 2-2 coming home or 3-1,” Hossa said. “We are glad we won in this building one game. We knew they were playing so well at home and we finally broke their streak.

“Coming from Chicago here, we were hoping to at least steal one game. We’re glad we did it and we have good position now, (but) we know it’s not finished yet. We need to win one more and it’s not going to be easy.”

After Voynov opened the scoring early in the first period, Bickell continued his scorching play and evened things when he fired a shot from just inside the blue line that appeared to knuckle and fool Quick, who just got a piece of the puck as it sailed into the net. It was the eighth goal of the playoffs for Bickell, who scored nine goals in 48 regular-season games.

In the second, Crawford allowed a soft goal when he failed to corral a loose puck in front of him and Penner banged it home.

Kane finally broke through when the winger knocked in a loose puck in the crease late in the second. That set up Hossa’s heroics in the third.

“It was a tough one to lose, but we knew we were going to have to win at least one in their rink, so we’re looking forward to the next challenge,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “It’s a big game Saturday night and it’s a must-win, obviously, so we have to have everyone rise to the occasion and be a good team.”

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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