In series rematch that looked to be very different on paper than last year's Western Conference Final, the opening game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings had a very familiar feel to it.
With Corey Crawford outplaying Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Toews closing the show, the Blackhawks drew first blood on Sunday with a 3-1 victory.
The Blackhawks were not at their finest, managing only 20 shots at Quick but they were opportunistic, getting a power play goal from Brandon Saad to open the scoring and a fortunate bounce on the eventual game winning goal by Duncan Keith.
Crawford was at his best after the Kings tied the score on a goal by Tyler Toffoli at 4:35 of the middle frame. Toffoli's goal came after a goal by Toews was eventually waved off after a referee conference citing goaltender interference. Crawford faced 17 Kings shots in the second period and Toffoli's was the only one that eluded him.
Given a one goal lead to protect going into the final 20 minutes, Chicago's defense locked down the Kings offense, limiting them to four shots, none of them dangerous enough to be rated a scoring opportunity.
"We didn't play poorly but we need to bear down on our chances more," said Kopitar who was once again stifled by Toews, an occurrence that happened often in Chicago's Conference Final win last May.
Toews knows the matchup with Kopitar is pivotal to the Blackhawks' title defense. The Kings center has emerged as one of the best pivots in the game with his performance this playoff season and must be controlled. While the matchup is a central focus, Toews knows it will take a team effort to keep Los Angeles' top line off the board.
"The best way to defense Kopitar is to keep him in his own zone," Toews said. "I get plenty of help from (Marian) Hossa."
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell played his first game after missing the entire Anaheim series with a lower-body injury and summed up his team's effort, "we played OK but that's a great team and we need to play a great game against them."
Game 2 is set for Wednesday at the United Center.