The Los Angeles Kings came into Game 4 looking to grab a stranglehold on the Western Conference Final, and with three first period goals they did just that as they knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 5-2 on Monday night.
The win gives the Kings a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
With their lines shuffled up, the Blackhawks came out of the gate in this one full of energy, but they couldn’t quite convert on any of their opportunities. Patrick Kane looked positively gleeful to be paired up with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell, but his speed didn’t translate into shots as the game remained scoreless.
After once again failing to convert on two consecutive power plays (one of which was negated by a penalty on Marian Hossa), the Blackhawks watched as the Kings capitalized on the momentum with a goal of their own. Jeff Carter got the puck in front of the net and cycled it back out to the point, and when he cut back in front of Corey Crawford, Jake Muzzin skated through the slot and blasted a slap shot past the goaltender to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead.
Just a few minutes later, the Blackhawks made another mistake, and the Kings pounced. Duncan Keith turned the puck over below the goal line to Anze Kopitar, and the Kings’ best defensive forward threaded a great pass to Marian Gaborik, who one-timed the puck past Crawford and gave the Kings a two-goal advantage.
With the Blackhawks reeling, Patrick Sharp continued the parade to the penalty box as he was whistled for a silly offensive zone infraction, and the Kings scored again. This time it was Kings captain Dustin Brown doing the damage, collecting a rebound off a tip from Justin Williams and depositing it into the back of the net to give his team a commanding 3-0 lead.
Fortunately for the Hawks, they were able to get out of the rest of the first period unscathed, but they gave the Kings another opportunity to score early in the second as Andrew Shaw was sent to the penalty box after a silly cross-checking penalty in the offensive zone. The Kings weren’t able to score on this one however, with Crawford making a key save on Carter to keep his team within shouting distance.
Despite the Blackhawks’ predicament, they didn’t show any real sense of urgency as the second period wore on, and eventually the Kings got another insurance goal to add to their total. With Williams and Dwight King getting inside position on Chicago’s blue liners in front of the net, Drew Doughty took advantage of the screen and blasted a slap shot past Crawford to put Los Angeles up by four goals.
A little over a minute later, the Blackhawks finally got on the board. Michal Rozsival made a nice play at the blue line to intercept a clearing attempt from Alec Martinez, and he quickly passed the puck to Brandon Saad, who lifted a backhanded shot over Jonathan Quick’s glove to pull his team within three goals at 4-1.
For the remainder of the period, the Blackhawks continued to press the tempo hard, but once again, indiscipline killed them. After arguably their best sustained possession of the game, Shaw was sent off the ice after another horrendous penalty, this time for holding Doughty’s stick in front of the net. The Kings’ defenseman was sent off as well after taking a couple of punches at the back of Shaw’s head, but neither team could take advantage of the ensuing 4-on-4 as the Kings maintained a three goal edge after two periods.
With a three goal lead, the Kings seemed to retreat into a bit of a defensive shell, but despite the more open ice the Blackhawks couldn't take advantage of it. Bryan Bickell did pick up a shot on a bit of quick puck movement by the first line, but Quick made his biggest save of the game as he kicked out his left leg and pushed the shot aside to keep his team ahead by three goals.
The Blackhawks seemed to get a bit of a lift from that possession, and they used it to bring themselves to within two goals with a little under 11 minutes remaining in the contest. After a mad netfront scramble that saw Doughty rob Toews with a brilliant stick check in the crease, Bryan Bickell picked up the rebound and backhanded a shot into the net to make it a 4-2 lead for the Kings.
Despite the late push, the Hawks couldn't come all the way back as the Kings finished things off. Tanner Pearson picked up the empty net goal to seal the contest, and with the tally the Blackhawks suddenly find themselves one game away from elimination.
Game 5 of the series is scheduled for Wednesday night in Chicago, with puck drop at 5pm Pacific time. The game can be seen on NBCSN.