LOS ANGELES, CA -: Jeff Carter #77 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal with Anze Kopitar #11 and Drew Doughty #8 (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Behind a second period rally keyed by Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli, the Los Angeles Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 Western Conference Final series lead.
Both Carter and Toffoli scored in that frame, with Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty also picking up goals for the Kings as they seized control of the series. Jonathan Toews scored twice for the Blackhawks in the losing effort.
The Kings came out of the gate strong in this one, getting three shots on goal in quick succession early on. Their best chance however came on an accidental redirect by Niklas Hjalmarsson, who deflected an Anze Kopitar shot in on Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks goaltender did make the save, but not before some tenuous moments with the puck laying in the crease.
Despite Michal Handzus giving the Kings a chance to build on that momentum by committing a bad penalty, the Blackhawks were the team that ended up drawing first blood. Coming in against Jonathan Quick, Toews faked a shot from the face-off circle and then flipped a soft wrist shot towards the net. Quick couldn’t quite stop it as it slid between his leg pads, and just like that the Kings were down 1-0.
Less than a minute later, the Kings got the goal right back. With Toews screening his own goaltender in front, Slava Voynov skated through the slot untouched, and when Crawford didn’t kick right enough to cover the near post, Voynov bounced a shot off the inside of the post and into the goal, tying things up at 1-1.
The Blackhawks got a power play of their own a few minutes later, but they weren’t able to capitalize. The Kings ended up getting the best chance of the sequence when Jeff Carter jumped into the zone on a breakaway, but Crawford was able to cut him off and make a key save.
Despite not scoring on that power play, the Blackhawks did get a couple more good shifts from their top lines, and they ended up getting the lead back. Michal Rozsival made a nice play to skate through an open slot, and even though his shot was blocked down by traffic in front of the goal, Toews collected the rebound, kicking it to his stick and flipping it past Quick to give Chicago a 2-1 advantage.
As the second period began, the Blackhawks got a few good chances, but they weren’t able to convert. Marian Hossa had the first one after a quick feed from Toews in front, but Quick made the save. Patrick Kane finally came to life in the period as well, picking up two successive shots off a feed from the boards by Michal Handzus, but Quick made both saves on his fellow American and kept the Hawks’ lead at one.
After that chance, the Kings finally found their groove and really hit the gas pedal. Trevor Lewis had a chance wide open alongside the net, but Duncan Keith dove in and pushed the puck away before the Kings could tie it. Nick Leddy then blocked a huge slap shot from Jake Muzzin, keeping his team ahead.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Kings’ persistence paid off, and they tied things up a short time later. When Johnny Oduya’s clearing attempt bounced off an official and stayed behind the net, Tanner Pearson won the puck battle and fed a pass to a wide open Carter, who fired home a one-timer past Crawford and knotted things up at 2-2.
After yet another poor power play by the Blackhawks, the Kings continued to press, and they got the lead as a result. With Hjalmarsson and Oduya at the blue line, Tyler Toffoli received a pass from Carter off a neutral zone turnover, and he scored on the breakaway to give the Kings a 3-2 lead.
The Blackhawks got two power plays late in the second period, but they couldn’t convert on either of them. Patrick Sharp had a decent opportunity fall by the wayside as his shot was stopped by Quick, and Duncan Keith got a great chance from in front but waited a second too long as he fired a shot wide of the net.
As the third period got underway, the Kings once again began to seize control of the offensive momentum, outshooting the Blackhawks by a 7-2 margin in the early going. Crawford was able to step up and make a couple of key saves however, and despite facing an onslaught on an early power play, the Blackhawks were still able to stay within a goal on the scoreboard.
The Kings continued to press the issue offensively, and when Rozsival picked up a foolish high-sticking penalty, they made the Blackhawks pay. Just as the power play expired, Drew Doughty collected the puck near the blue line and blasted a shot past Crawford's blocker to give the Kings a 4-2 lead with about eight minutes remaining in the game.
Over the final eight minutes and change, the Kings' defense continued to clamp down on the Blackhawks, breaking up numerous zone entry chances and forcing players like Kane and Toews to the outside of the ice. The Blackhawks couldn't figure out a way to beat that defensive strategy, and as a result they only picked up seven shots on goal in the period.
With Crawford pulled and less than five seconds left, the Blackhawks did add a late tally to the final score. Nick Leddy teed up a slap shot from the point, and when Sharp managed to get a stick on it, it deflected over Quick's shoulder and into the goal, making the final score a 4-3 outcome.
The Kings will look to grab a stranglehold on the series on Monday night when the two teams meet again at Staples Center for Game 4 of the series. The puck drops at 6pm Pacific time, and the game can be seen on NBCSN.