The Kings stormed ahead with three first-period goals that
whipped the home Staples Center crowd into a frenzy, and held on to
grab a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals
In a match-up between the past two Stanley Cup champions, the Kings
have looked the sharper of the teams in the last three contests and
can eliminate the Blackhawks with a Game Five victory when the
series shifts back to Chicago on Wednesday.
"The last (win) is always the toughest one," Kings center Anze
Kopitar told reporters after finishing with two assists.
"We're going to their building and we're going to have to bring our
best. Hopefully, we can continue (to play well)."
A series victory would serve as sweet revenge for the Kings after
they were defeated by the Blackhawks in five games at the same stage
of the playoffs a year ago.
On Monday, Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown all scored
in the first period, and Drew Doughty added another in the second to
carry Los Angeles into a 4-0 lead.
The first-period surge was a sequence that featured three goals in
just four shots against goaltender Corey Crawford, and it clearly
knocked the stuffing out of the Blackhawks.
"We're just trying to get people in front of (Crawford)," Los
Angeles defenseman Doughty said.
"If he can see the puck, he is going to make the saves."
Los Angeles kept Crawford searching for the puck in the first, when
he was completely shielded from Muzzin's score, and fell victim to
active sticks in front of the net.
Crawford finished with just 16 saves while Jonathan Quick made 22 in
Chicago fought back with a second-period goal from Brandon Saad and
a Bryan Bickell effort in the third but that was all they could
A desperate push for goals in the third led to Tanner Pearson
scoring an empty-netter in the final minute to punctuate the win for
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Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane was again held without a score and he
has failed to register a goal in any of the four games of the series
However, the Blackhawks' problems appear to be deeper than just
Kane's slump in form and they now face the serious prospect of
losing a series after winning their previous six.
"You have to make things happen and execute," Chicago captain
Jonathan Toews said. "There are no excuses. It's pretty simple."
Meanwhile, the Kings are firing on all cylinders and have undergone
a dramatic offensive turnaround.
They entered the post-season as the lowest-scoring team in the
playoffs but have been the most prolific throughout them.
Justin Williams added two assists for Los Angeles while red-hot Jeff
Carter tallied an assist and has 11 points in five games.
The Kings completed a series comeback from 3-0 down in the first
round and 3-2 in the second, but now find themselves in the
unfamiliar position of being firmly in control.
The winner of the series will face either the New York Rangers or
Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals.
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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