Kris Versteeg makes big impact in Kings win over Blackhawks


Kris Versteeg makes big impact in Kings win over Blackhawks

Kris Versteeg had zero points in his first five games since being acquired by the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 28, the night before the trade deadline.

That changed on Monday, in a significant way.

The former Blackhawks forward received a video board tribute in his return to Chicago earlier in the season with Carolina, but this time, he decided to welcome himself back by potting the game's first goal 3:17 into the first period.

"Yeah, it felt good to get the monkey off the back," Versteeg said following the Kings' 5-0 win over the Blackhawks. "Obviously you have to bring your best when you play top teams in the league, and we played really well tonight."

[RELATED: Blackhawks go silent in shutout loss to Kings]

Scoring his first goal as a member of the Kings, Versteeg let out a big fist-bump that must have felt nice against his former club. 

"It wasn't actually that big, I don't think," Versteeg joked, downplaying the fact that it came against Chicago. "When you don't score 50, sometimes you get excited when you score goals."

He then admitted: "When you play your old team, you always want to play hard. It gives that little added boost. But at the end of the day, a goal feels good no matter who it's against."

But his impact didn't stop there. Just 18 seconds left, on the very same shift, Versteeg registered the primary assist on Milan Lucic's snipe past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, helping the Kings build a 2-0 lead where they never looked back.

"The second goal was really big," Versteeg said. "I know playing for the Hawks, once they get down, they get pretty loose and they can make a lot of plays when loose and playing free. They had a lot of the puck and a lot of the play after that, but we stuck to it and played our game and ended up winning."

"That was big for us," echoed Norris Trophy favorite Drew Doughty, who logged a game-high 26:06 minutes of ice time. "I think they got two on one shift, too, which is a pretty big deflator for their team. From that point on, you kind of could feel that we were going to win that game. They were getting opportunities and stuff like that, and they didn't give up, but we felt like we were in control from that point."

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Despite being held pointless in his previous five games, his new teammates know what Versteeg, who's now been traded six times in his NHL career, brings to the table on and off the ice.

He already worked his way to the top line with Anze Kopitar and Versteeg, and it paid off on the first shift of the game.

"He's a guy, you can play him on any line," said Jonathan Quick, who set a new record for most shutouts by an American-born NHL goaltender with 41, following a 32-save performance. "He's very versatile and he knows how to win. He's played in a lot of big games and he's had success in those games, so he's a great addition to the team. You're happy to see him get one, especially against one of his old teams."

Vincent Lecavalier, who was also acquired midseason, Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli added the final three goals, which essentially slammed the door shut on the night.

The sold-out United Center crowd of 22,170 had seen enough after the fourth goal just past the midway mark of the third period, darting for the exits to beat traffic.

It's now the Blackhawks' third consecutive loss — their second in a row allowing five goals in a game — all against Western Conference contenders.

But that certainly doesn't mean opponents will sleep on the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

"Nobody's overlooking them," Quick said. "That's not even a question."

"They're a great team. They're the best team in the league," he added. "Them and Washington. We're familiar with them, they're familiar with us, we've played a lot against each other the past few years. It's a game where you don't need to (watch) much video or anything like that; you know what you're going to get. I think we caught a couple bounces, they hit a couple posts that could've gone the other way. We're fortunate to get a couple points."

The Kings and Blackhawks have combined to win the last four Stanley Cups, and clashed in the Conference Final in two of those years, both of whom got past the other en route to a Stanley Cup victory. It's always entertaining for both the fans and players when these two heavyweights meet.

And nobody will be surprised if there's a rubber match this spring. 

In fact, it's welcomed.

"No. Hopefully we do," Doughty said when asked if he'd be surprised to see the Blackhawks again down the road. "If you ask me, I could see them coming out of their side all the way to the conference final and obviously that's what we'd want to do, too. There's a good chance we could meet up at some point, and if we do, it would be a fun series."

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak


Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.