The Blackhawks snapped the Kings’ treasured 15-game home ice winning streak Thursday and with that, all but stole their chances of keeping the Stanley Cup at home.
Down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, the Kings will have to play a perfect game in Chicago just to stay alive. Los Angeles seemed off to a good start, netted the critical first goal of the game, but Chicago answered back and overtook them 3-2 early in the final period. The defending champions never recovered.
“It as a tough one to lose tonight but we knew we were going to have to win at least one in their rink so we’re looking forward to the next challenge,” said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. “It’s a big game Saturday night and it’s a must-win, obviously.”
Slava Voynov gave the Los Angeles crowd an early boost, getting the puck in the high slot and firing it past Corey Crawford to put his team up 1-0 at 3:28 in the first period. Ten minutes later, Bryan Bickell, who scored Chicago’s only goal in Game 3, evened the scoreboard at 1-1 with a shot from the blue line.
The second period followed a similar script.
Kings center Jeff Carter spun around near the left circle and passed the puck to right wing Dustin Penner positioned right in front of the net for the 2-1 lead at 2:12. Then with 1:39 remaining, Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane swept in the puck deflected off Bickell, to tie the game yet again at 2-2.
The tide turned in the final period. Right away.
Marian Hossa’s go-ahead goal at 1:10 gave the Blackhawks a dominating 3-2 lead. The Kings failed to equalize. Postgame, head coach Darryl Sutter acknowledged that as the killer play.
“I think once they scored the quick goal after the penalty kill, 10 seconds after, we had to go for it a little bit and we were stretching it out and it didn’t work that well,” Sutter said.
“We had the power play, we didn’t really work it around too well and get many shots and if you’re only getting two shots in the third period in a 2-2 game, then you’re probably not going to win,” he said. “So there’s a lot of things we could have done different.”
Both teams had missing personnel, a much bigger hit for the home team.
Sutter said of Mike Richards, who hasn’t played since Game 1 when Dave Bolland elbowed him in the head: “I think he was our leading point producer at the time of his injury so obviously that impacts us a lot.”
Chicago played Brent Seabrook in place of top defenseman Duncan Keith, suspended for high-sticking Kings’ Jeff Carter in the second period of Game 3. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said he was happy to see Seabrook to the ice, as were his teammates.
“Certainly there’s a big void (without Keith) but I think we had a great response after coming out of Game 3 and playing the way we did.”
The last time Los Angeles found itself in an uphill battle was two years ago down 3-2 in the series against the San Jose Sharks, who they eliminated in the last round this season. Scuderi said his team will go into Game 5 at United Center Saturday 5 p.m. with that mentality.
“We kind of played loose. We weren’t expected to win that series against San Jose and I think now that we’re down 3-1, people aren’t expecting us to so I think we can go in there as if we have no pressure,” he said. “Play hard, play our game and steal one from them.”
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