Despite having two leads in the game, the Los Angeles Kings fell to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night in Game 4 of their Western Conference Finals series.
For the second consecutive game, the Kings opened up the scoring early, as Slava Voynov took advantage of a terrible pinch by Blackhawks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank and fired a screened slapshot past Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
Chicago was not so keen to allow the Kings to get too far out in front, however. 10 minutes later, Bryan Bickell skated up the ice and uncorked a knuckling wrist shot from above the right circle. Quick took a swipe at the puck with his glove, but ended up missing it and let the puck trickle into the net as the Hawks tied the game.
All in all, the first period was an evenly played frame by both teams. The Hawks ended up with an 11-10 advantage in shots, but several key defensive plays and big saves by both goaltenders kept things tied up.
In the second period, however, it was Crawford’s turn to give up a weak goal. Jeff Carter fired a shot to the front of the net that ended up slowly hitting Crawford’s pad. Rather than covering the puck like he should have though, Crawford tried to weakly push it aside, and Dustin Penner, beating Brookbank all the way, ended up popping home the easy rebound to give the Kings the lead.
The tempo of the game kept swinging back and forth until the end of the second period, when the Hawks struck again. Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson kept the puck in the offensive zone with a great play, and when he fired a shot, Bickell tipped the shot in towards the net. Patrick Kane was also crashing the net though, and he ended up swiping the goal away from Bickell and scoring his first tally in eight games.
The period ended with the game tied, but with a little hint of momentum trending towards the Blackhawks. That trickle became a tidal wave quickly in the third period, however, as the Hawks executed a gorgeous tick-tack-toe passing play that got the puck on the stick of Marian Hossa, who roofed a shot over Quick, giving the Hawks a 3-2 lead.
The momentum in the game stuck largely with the Blackhawks as the third period got underway after that early strike, but Quick made a ridiculous glove save on Kane about seven minutes in. On the play, Kane was all along in the low face-off dot, and Quick not only did a pad stack on the near side but also reached his glove all the way up to the crossbar to rob the Hawks’ sniper of his second goal of the night.
The Kings ended up starting to turn back the Hawks’ aggressiveness as the third period wore on, getting more sustained pressure as time wore on. The Hawks did a great job backchecking in the neutral and defensive zones to neutralize that pressure a bit, but the Kings definitely made a conscious effort not to make anything easy for Chicago.
The Kings’ push ended up culminating when Hawks forward Michael Frolik committed a high sticking infraction late in the third period in a similar fashion to the way the San Jose Sharks gave the Kings a chance to get back in Game 2 of their series.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, they were unable to capitalize on that chance, and the Hawks killed off a huge penalty with their best penalty killer in the box.
For the Kings, they will head back to Chicago facing elimination on Saturday night in Game 5, and with their 15 game home winning streak snapped, they will have to muster a huge effort just to survive.