CHICAGO — In two games in the Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Kings have yet to lead through an entire period. They have yet to score the first goal, falling behind the Chicago Blackhawks in both games.
By all accounts, the Kings have played only one solid period of hockey. They have shown flashes of their suffocating defense but have yet to play a complete game. So why do they have the Blackhawks scared?
"We’ve seen this team in the playoffs, what they’ve been able to do when their backs are against the wall," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "They’re relentless in a lot of ways. We got to make sure when we get a chance like tonight, we got to put ’em away."
Left for dead is when the Kings are at their best. On the verge of going back to Los Angeles trailing 2-0 in the series, they made their presence known.
Kings finally solve Blackhawks with six-goal eruption in Game 2
Instead of putting them away, the Blackhawks gave up six unanswered goals, three of which were credited to Jeff Carter. The Carter line, featuring rookies Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli on the wings, was responsible for the final three goals of the game while Carter also scored on the power play when his defensemen, Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez, made the initial play.
"I don’t know. It just seemed like they got better," said Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. "It’s too many. It’s too many. It’s going to be tough to win a hockey game when you give up that many goals in a short amount of time. Can’t be giving up that, or how many goals it was in the third. You’ll definitely lose a hockey game giving up that many goals up in one period."
The penalty kill failed the Blackhawks for the first time this postseason. Much has been made about their ability to kill penalties and rightfully so, but the slot seemed a little less crowded as a close score sent the Blackhawks into a tailspin, leaving little room for error.
Doughty ripped a long shot from high right through the slot and it hit Carter’s stick on the way in. Less than three minutes and another minor penalty later, defenseman Jake Muzzin slapped one from the left circle and Crawford never had a chance.
The Kings had their first lead of the series and wouldn’t relinquish it.
"Once that team gets a lead, they’re pretty good with a lead," Crawford said. "We needed a big stop on the second (power play). The first power play they got one, we needed a big kill and they got another one that kind of took everything out of us, that second power play."
The Blackhawks, the team that figured out how to foil the Kings’ postseason prowess last year, have suddenly become desperate to decipher their playoff secrets.
"We know what it takes," said the Blackhawks’ Kris Versteeg. "From day to day, the momentum doesn’t really carry. We just have to be ready for the start of Game 3 and find a way to win in their building and hopefully come home with the series lead. We know it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to find ways to dig down deep and play our best hockey."