This one is over. Final score 3-1. You didn't really think the #LAKings would lose at home did you?— LA Kings (@LAKings) June 5, 2013
Ah, if only we could all have been this cocky. The fans had to sweat out the third period, but the Los Angeles Kings fully earned tonight's victory. LA moved to 8-0 at home in the playoffs with a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, fighting their way back into the series behind some familiar offensive stars and an improved defensive effort.
Chicago put their stamp on Game 2 with an early goal from Andrew Shaw, so it was nice to see the Kings respond in a similar way early on in Game 3. It was current blog favorite and Corsi hero Justin Williams who got the ball rolling, as he has so often in these playoffs. He took the puck from Nick Leddy in the offensive zone, fought off a couple defenders, and got the puck back to the defensemen at the blue line. A missed shot rolled back along the boards to Rob Scuderi, who passed across the ice to Slava Voynov. As the Blackhawks' defense gravitated towards his side of the ice, Voynov delivered a beauty of a diagonal cross-ice pass to Williams, and he made no mistake in beating Corey Crawford above the blocker. It was the first shot for either team, and the Kings led three minutes in.
Happily, the Kings did not back off after this initial strike. Instead, it was a fun opportunity for the new line combinations to show off a bit. Anze Kopitar brought out the best in Dwight King today. (Or maybe Dwight King brought out the best in Anze Kopitar. You can't rule it out!) Either way, both players looked better than they have in a long time, as they excelled on the forecheck and generated some pressure alongside Trevor Lewis. Stoll switched up with Kopitar in centering Brown and Williams, and aside from producing that first goal, the line showed some jump. And Penner-Carter-Toffoli reprised their Game 2 excellence. It's also worth noting that the top 3 centers all excelled in the faceoff circle, winning key draws throughout the evening.
So, the forwards took it to Chicago in the first 40, and that set up some good looks for the defensemen. At the end of the first, Drew Doughty hit the post about has hard as one can hit a post, keeping the score at 1-0. Thankfully, the Kings were rewarded for that near miss and their continued strong play with a fortunate second tally 6:37 into the second. That's not to say that Slava Voynov's goal wasn't set up perfectly; Jeff Carter jarred the puck loose from a defender in the zone, and Tyler Toffoli cleverly tightroped along the goal line before softly kicking the puck out to a charging Voynov. Voynov snapped his stick on the ensuing shot, but clearly, he did it only so he could perform a double fist-pump after his knuckling shot beat Crawford on the short side.
The Kings remained in control during the second period, and got a four-minute power play after an ugly incident. Jeff Carter and Duncan Keith jostled behind the play soon after Voynov's goal, and when Keith lost his glove as the two skated side-by-side, Carter took a swing at either Keith's hand or his glove as he attempted to pick it up. No question about what happened next, though; Keith retaliated by whacking Carter in the face. And not via some sort of accidental response; Keith straightened up, looked at Carter, and took a one-handed baseball swing with his stick. Keith apologized almost immediately after, and oddly, NBCSN spent as much time highlighting the apology as they did the high-stick. Great. But the damage was done; Carter missed a few shifts getting patched up and underwent some dental work. Keith avoided a match penalty and an ejection, odd because Rule 60.4 seems to describe exactly what Keith was doing...
When, in the opinion of the Referee, a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent while carrying or holding any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent, the Referee shall assess a match penalty to the offending player.
Anyway, make your own judgments based on these two looks at the incident, as well as the video which shows the whole sequence. [UPDATE: Keith will have a hearing with the NHL later today. Supplemental discipline is possible.]
The Kings couldn't score on the ensuing power play, and the remainder of the second was a struggle until Bryan Bickell grabbed a late goal. Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr fell over one another in the corner while trying to defend Marian Hossa, and Bickell had tons of room to try a wraparound which beat Jonathan Quick five-hole. This set up a third period which starred the goalies; the Blackhawks actually were outshot in the third while trailing, which was a pretty impressive effect of the Kings' strong play. In fact, it was Crawford who had to make the stellar saves early in the period, including a stunning glove stop on a Carter deflection which hit the ice and bounced four feet into the air.
Both goaltenders weathered early power plays as well, and Quick got some help from the crease-clearing abilities of Rob Scuderi and the Kings' back line. So it was still 2-1 when Quick brought out his best work. Keith's long point shot got through and drew a rebound for Bryan Bickell, but Quick threw up his blocker to deny the high rebound attempt. The Kings also survived an awful line change which almost resulted in a 2-on-0; Keith eagerly carried the puck forward when the ice opened up, but Andrew Shaw couldn't get back out of the zone in time and offside was called. LA soon sealed the game when Chicago pulled Crawford; Carter cleared the puck down the ice off the end boards, and Dwight King beat everyone else to the puck and fired it into the empty net.
That's 15 straight wins at home, and one more on Thursday evens the series heading back to the United Center. Stay tuned for more coverage of the game and the Keith incident.