Staples Center continues to be a magical place for the Los Angeles Kings, whose 3-1 must-win Game 3 victory over the first-seeded Chicago Blackhawks saved them from a do-or-die situation going into Game 4.
The defending Stanley Cup champions rebounded immediately from a lopsided 4-2 Game 2 loss in Chicago. At 3:21 in the first period, right wing Justin Williams slapped the puck past Blackhawks’ goalie Corey Crawford, going through with his effort to “get it off as quickly as I could.”
“We started out the game exactly how we wanted to,” Williams said, adding that his team did not go into the game uptight, as one would expect being down 0-2 in the Western Conference finals. They started round 1 of the playoffs with the same record against the St. Louis Blues.
He said the difference this time on home ice, where they boast a 15-game winning streak, was that they had more time in the offensive zone.
“Back in Chicago, we didn’t have much time to do that,” Williams said. “Today, we had to flip that. On Thursday, hopefully even more.”
The Kings have been missing center Mike Richards since he took an elbow to the head from Dave Bolland in Game 1. But their solid defense and goaltending compensated.
Chicago would not give the home team an easy time, though, slicing the lead to 2-1 with a wraparound goal by left wing Bryan Bickell at 19:26.
That late goal would be the Blackhawks’ last.
Los Angeles got away with a poor line change at four minutes remaining in the game, and their goalie Jonathan Quick brilliantly blocked a shot from the left with his glove that would have tied the game.
With 28 seconds to go, Dwight King scored on the empty net and secured a much needed 3-1 victory for the home team. The Kings also outshot the Blackhawks 28-20.
“They were way more efficient than we were tonight,” admitted Blackhawks’ head coach Joel Quenneville. His team’s five penalties were far too many, he said.
Blackhawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith said he accidentally high-sticked Kings forward Heff Carter in the face, and later apologized.
“I wanted to give him a tap, but not where I got him. I feel bad,” said Keith, who got four minutes instead of an injection.
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter was pleased that his team finally carried out what he had hoped in the first two matches in Chicago.
“I said it after Game 1 and before Game 2. We have to manage the puck and we have to play a perfect game to beat them,” he said.
The Kings go into Game 4 Thursday at 6 p.m. with a fighting chance in the series and lucky home ice.
But Sutter does not expect it to be a breeze.
“Chicago is the best team in the league,” he said. “We’re just trying to make sure that they don’t land easy.”
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