The Los Angeles Kings rode a strong second period from center Jeff Carter and goaltender Jonathan Quick on Saturday to a 4-3 Game 3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, taking a 2-1 series lead in the NHL’s Western Conference Final.
After falling behind 2-1 in the opening period at the Staples Center, Carter scored the game-tying goal and then produced the assist for Tyler Toffoli’s go-ahead score, his third point of the game after assisting on the Kings’ opening goal to Slava Voynov.
The two goals came from just four shots in the period, with Quick proving a rock at the other end to turn the game the home team’s way.
Quick let through a double to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews in the opening period, but was outstanding in the second, making 10 saves despite facing nearly six minutes of Blackhawk power plays.
Drew Doughty then provided an important insurance goal midway through the final period, before Patrick Sharp added a Chicago consolation with just four seconds remaining.
“It was obviously a big game,” Carter, who claimed a hat-trick in Game 2, said. “I think we kind of rode the momentum from the last game in Chicago and our guys did a good job. We have a lot of character, guys who have played in a lot of big games and know how to win. We play a strong defensive game and I think that is where a lot of our offense comes from. We lock it down, and if for some reason we give up a chance, Quick is always there to bail us out.”
Following a disastrous finish in Game 2’s 6-2 loss, Toews did his best to ensure his side rebounded by opening the scoring with a short-handed goal.
After the Kings tied the game just 50 seconds later through Voynov, he wrested the advantage back by tucking a rebound away at 13 minutes, 19 seconds, sending the Blackhawks to the first break 2-1 up.
However, after some choice words from coach Darryl Sutter, the Kings upped the ante on the Chicago skipper, keeping him silent the rest of the way.
“He’s obviously a great player and a great leader for their team and there are just times where he takes over games,” Doughty said. “And we knew after the first period where he got those two goals he was trying to put it on himself to take over the game so it was definitely a focus in between periods to step up our game on him, try to get physical with him and take his space away and I thought everyone did a good job on him from there on out. Chicago is a good team, they’re not going to go away easy and we are only up 2-1. We have a lot of work left to do, but we’re looking forward to it and can’t wait for Game 4.”
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks gave up a lead for the second straight game.
“We played well, but we didn’t get the result we wanted tonight,” Toews said. “There is no time for getting discouraged and frustrated. We know we can keep pushing it to that next level and that is what it is going to take against these guys. Clearly, they want it badly and are playing really hard. For us, it’s just a matter of continuing the effort that we started with in the first period.”
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is in Los Angeles today.