LOS ANGELES—In a town where careers hang on a single audition, the Blackhawks-Kings game Thursday was pure Hollywood. Having jettisoned a number of veterans in recent weeks, both teams are using the tail end of dismal seasons as a proving ground for the kids in the organization.
"We're young, young, young," said Martin Havlat, perhaps the only Hawks position player with star power. "Every game is important for us."
"We want to see where our kids are at to give us a good read as to whether they're ready to step in or not right now," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "And we'll continue to evaluate this and make a decision at the end of the year."
This game may have meant nothing in this year's standings, but players from both teams were trying to impress their coaches, and they played like it, as the Blackhawks won 4-3 in a spirited, seven-player shootout for each team.
Fittingly, the winning goal in the 3-2 shootout was scored by one of the Hawks' younger players, 25-year-old left wing Nikita Alexeev, who also opened scoring with a first-period goal.
The Blackhawks have won four of fiveincluding two in shootouts.
Before the shootout, both Kings goalie Sean Burke and Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made 24 saves.
Nikita's 11th goal of the season beat Burke at 4:54 of the first for a 1-0 lead. Assists went to 21-year-old Danny Richmond and Denis Arkhipov.
The Hawks made it 2-0 at 13:21 of the period when Arkhipov scored with help from Adrian Aucoin and Martin Lapointe. But the Kings came back just 29 seconds later with a goal by Jamie Lundmark, assisted by Raitis Ivanans and Dustin Brown.
The Kings tied it at 17:11 when Brian Willsie put one past Khabibulin on a power play. Assists went to Patrick O'Sullivan and Jaroslav Modry.
Los Angeles went ahead 3-2 at 15:34 of the second period when the Hawks gave up an all-too-familiar odd-man rush just after they had killed off a Kings power play. Scott Thornton took a perfect cross-ice feed from Tom Kostopoulos and whipped it past a helpless Khabibulin.
Early in the third period, the Blackhawks impressively killed off a 5-on-3 Kings power playwith Peter Bondra and Aucoin in the penalty boxto keep the margin at one goal.
The Hawks tied it at 11:53 of the third period when Tuomo Ruutu snuck out from behind the Kings' net and flipped a backhander by Burke. Rene Bourque, back in the lineup after an ankle injury, got one assist, Jassen Cullimore the other.
The Hawks say that despite the team's current standing (13th out of 15 in the Western Conferencethree points ahead of the cellar-dwelling Kings), they are still focused on winning, if for no other reason than keeping ahead of L.A.
"They are not that far behind us," Havlat said. "We still have 14 games left and we want to win as many as possible."