The Los Angeles Kings had a great opportunity to eliminate the Chicago Blackhawks from the postseason and advance to the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, but they coughed up a 4-3 lead early in the third period and were ultimately defeated by Michal Handzus’ game-winning goal in the second overtime period to drop a 5-4 decision.
The game wasn’t a pretty one for the Kings, who were down early in the game and struggled at times to keep up with the furious pace that the Blackhawks set. The Hawks scored two goals in the first three and a half minutes of the game, and just over a minute after Jarret Stoll scored the Kings’ first goal, Brandon Saad promptly came down the ice and flipped in a rebound one-timer past Jonathan Quick to make it a 3-1 game.
The Kings also committed several silly penalties that ended up costing them momentum. Just 30 seconds into the game Drew Doughty was sent to the penalty box for tripping, and Brent Seabrook scored a minute later to put the Blackhawks in front. Late in the game Jarret Stoll had a bad penalty of his own as he was sent off for tripping, and the Blackhawks came close on several occasions to taking the lead with less than three minutes to go in the game.
Of course, the Kings’ missteps in the game shouldn’t detract from the positive moves forward that the team took. Even on a night when they were getting everything they could handle and more from a desperate Blackhawks team, the Kings were still finding ways to get the puck in the net. Whether it was the second line pitching in once again, with Tanner Pearson scoring the go-ahead goal in the second period, or depth scoring with Stoll pitching in his second goal of the postseason, the Kings may have fallen a step behind at times, but for good chunks of the game they were able to keep up with the potent Hawks’ scoring attack.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the Kings finally got some solid production out of their top line, which has been largely quiet in this series. Dustin Brown scored on a rebound off a shot from Marian Gaborik to tie the game early in the second period, while Gaborik himself had gotten on the board in the first period thanks to an excellent feed from Anze Kopitar on the rush to get the Kings to within a goal.
Cumulatively, the three first liners had two goals and three assists in the game to go along with 11 shots on goal, and when you factor in the 15 hits that they threw, they were getting it done both from a scoring standpoint and a physicality standpoint.
When Game 6 rolls around in Los Angeles on Friday night, the Kings will have plenty to work on, including getting off to a better start and playing more responsibly on the defensive end of the ice, but if they can continue to get that kind of scoring punch out of their top line and their depth players, then it will go a long way toward ending this series at Staples Center.