Kings hoping win over Blackhawks sparks turnaround

Patience isn’t something the Los Angeles Kings have much of these days. It’s been tested quite a lot over the course of their seven-game, six-point slump.

But Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, when the Kings had done just about all they could do against one of hockey’s strongest teams, they dug a little deeper and found enough patience and drive to score two late goals in a 4-3 win. 

It was two badly-needed points, but it was a victory that changed the entire mood in the dressing room. 

"I think we needed a win and we needed a win real bad," forward Tyler Toffoli said. "To get it against a team like Chicago, it’s a good feeling."

In the final game at home before the Grammy road trip, the Kings were looking for a spark. Jeff Carter and his two goals provided it. Tyler Toffoli and his game-tying goal and Jake Muzzin, with the help of Chicago defenseman Nick Hjalmarsson’s stick, took it from there.

The Kings haven’t exactly caught fire just yet – they’ll need a few more wins for that — but a spark was all they were looking for.

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"We have to find ways to win games," Toffoli said. "We can’t be thinking too far ahead, but one game at a time. We’ve got a big road trip coming up and we’re going to start right away."

The Kings looked more like the Kings of spring. The game and the atmosphere had shades of their two playoff battles. And even the way it ended — with Muzzin scoring a wrister through traffic all the way from the blue line in the waning minutes of the game — seemed playoff-esque.

"Every time you play them it’s an intense, exciting game," Carter said. "If you can’t get up to play a game like this, as a player, there’s something wrong with you. We enjoy it, a big battle for us tonight."

But a win doesn’t mean all is fixed in the kingdom. It wasn’t a complete 60-minute effort. Despite an increased emphasis on staying out of the box early, the Kings took three first-period penalties.

The first and second lines generated nearly all of the offense and it was clear that the fourth was falling behind. Trevor Lewis and Nick Shore were each minus-two for the night while their center, Jordan Nolan, was minus-1. With the Kings down in the third period, they each played only three shifts.

Coach Darryl Sutter has been outspoken about the necessity of four quality lines, and he didn’t feel that he had all four working the way he would like.

"I thought the Carter line was really good, they gave us some momentum on their shifts early," Sutter said. "But there’s a lot of work to do with some other guys."

You don’t have to tell the Kings that the road to the Stanley Cup Final goes directly through Chicago. But since the Kings bested the Blackhawks in an epic seven-game series in the Western Conference Finals last season, Chicago has picked up right where it left off while L.A. has sputtered through the first half.

With 54 points, L.A. is still one point behind Calgary in the Pacific Division Standings, every point is crucial, but these two might carry a little more meaning.

"End of the day, no matter who you beat, it’s two points," Carter said. "It’s really what we’re looking for these days. Obviously, it’s a top team and they have been for a long time and hopefully it’s a big confidence boost for us after having some ups and downs. Hopefully we can build off of this and keep going."