Kings Beat Blackhawks 4-3, Take Series Lead

Carter, Toffoli goals gave Kings lead they would never relinquish

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Jonathan Toews scored two goals for the Chicago Blackhawks, but that was all their offense could muster as the Los Angeles Kings triumphed in a 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. 

Goals by Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli in the second period gave the Kings the lead, and Drew Doughty's power play goal in the third period iced the game. Patrick Sharp picked up a goal with less than five seconds remaining in the third period, but it wasn't enough as the Blackhawks fell. 

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.

After they finished killing off the final few seconds of a Hawks' power play, the Kings went to work and started peppering Crawford with shots. Despite outshooting the Blackhawks by a 7-2 margin early in the frame, they couldn't extend their lead as the Hawks' goaltender seemed to settle down after a rough second period. 

With Rozsival in the penalty box after a foolish high-sticking penalty against Kyle Clifford, the Kings made the Hawks pay for their indiscipline again. Drew Doughty collected the puck on a pass to the blue line, and before the Hawks could adjust their coverage the defenseman blasted a slap shot past Crawford's blocker pad and into the net to make it a 4-2 game with eight minutes remaining in the contest. 

In those final eight minutes, the Blackhawks continued to have a difficult time getting into the offensive zone, much less generating any scoring chances. In the end, the Blackhawks were outshot by a 18-7 margin in the period, and even though Sharp picked up a late goal on a redirection of a Nick Leddy shot, the Hawks still fell and found themselves behind in the series by a 2-1 margin. 

The Hawks will have a chance to rebound and tie things up in Game 4 of the series, which is set for Monday night at 8pm Central time. The game can be seen on NBCSN. 

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