LOS ANGELES -- The defending champions continue to be unbeatable on home ice during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Justin Williams and Jeff Carter helped the Los Angeles Kings generate enough offense despite missing center Mike Richards for a second straight contest and goaltender Jonathan Quick bounced back from being pulled in Game 2 to make 19 saves as the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Tuesday night in Game 3 of this Western Conference Final.
After dropping the first two games in Chicago, the Kings cut the Blackhawks' lead in the best-of-7 series to 2-1 -- and improved to 8-0 in the postseason at Staples Center. Dating back into the regular season, Los Angeles has won 15 games in a row in its own building.
Game 4 will be at Staples Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The team that played Game 3 looked much more like the one that rolled through four opponents to win the Cup last spring.
"The determination in here is a big factor and we're focused on the way we have to play," Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We didn't do a great job of that in the first two games and we did a much better job of that here in Game 3. We need the same focus, not to ride the roller coaster and go up and down with the emotions, just be aware of what we have to do and the next part is to go out there and execute it. We did a pretty good job of that tonight."
Williams (game's first goal) and Carter (two assists) were Los Angeles' best players in a game that didn't look much like the first two in the series. The Kings controlled play for long stretches, something they couldn't do at United Center in back-to-back weekend losses.
Quick stepped up late in the third period by making a highlight-reel stop on Bryan Bickell to preserve a 2-1 lead. Bickell, one of the biggest surprises of the postseason, had the puck on his stick and a glorious opportunity to send Game 3 into overtime. But the ever-so-poised Quick moved to his right across the crease and got his blocker on what would have been the tying goal.
"Overall in your head, you tell yourself you got to play better in Game 4," Quick said. "I didn't like the goal I gave up, and there's some things I like to clean up for the next game. I just think from a team standpoint, it's good to win. You're down 2-0, you need a win."
The Blackhawks were sluggish at the start, mustering only 10 shots in the first 40 minutes, including three in the second period.
"We knew exactly the kind of game they were going to play and that they were going to have more confidence, more energy in their own building," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We just didn't bring that same effort and that same pace. We know we have to be better than that in the next one.
"But even considering that, we still hung in there and had our chance to even it up late in the game."
Williams gave the Kings the lead for the second time in the three games of this series with the lone goal of the opening period. He took the puck from Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy in the Blackhawks' zone and then fended off three defenders to get it to Rob Scuderi.
Kings defenseman Slava Voynov shot the puck from the right point but missed wide. The puck reached Scuderi at the left point and he sent it back to Voynov. He wound up to shoot again, but instead sent a pass to Williams in the left circle, and Williams beat Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford (25 saves) at 3:21 of the first period for his team-leading sixth goal of the playoffs.
"We were just quicker. We were quicker everywhere on the ice," Williams said. "They're a transition team. They're an explosive offensive team if you give them opportunities. We limited their time and space because we were on our toes instead of our heels.
"We were able to spend a lot more time in the offensive zone than we did in the first two games. In turn, we were able to make some things in there."
The Kings nearly took a two-goal lead late in the first period, but defenseman Drew Doughty blasted a shot off the left post in the final minute.
Los Angeles did go ahead 2-0 early in the second period. Dustin Penner just missed on a pass to Tyler Toffoli, who was breaking in alone on net. The puck went into the left corner and Toffoli came out of it and went right to the net. He lost the puck en route while Voynov pinched down from the right point. His stick broke on the shot, but his changeup fooled Crawford at 6:37.
"It happens sometimes. If you work hard enough, it's amazing how much good luck you might get," Scuderi said. "I thought we worked hard that shift. We had a couple chances, couple good looks, and then we end up getting a broken-stick goal, of all the shots we took. But sometimes that happens."
It was Voynov's fifth goal of this postseason, tying him with Boston's Johnny Boychuk for the most among defensemen. He is also now tied with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for second in points among defensemen with 11. They trail only Pittsburgh's Kris Letang, who has 16.
Voynov is the first defenseman in franchise history to score five goals in a single postseason.
"I … found an empty spot in the net and the puck [was] not where I want," Voynov said. "But [with a] broken stick the puck it [went] just slow and lucky."
Los Angeles missed a great chance to extend its lead in the middle of the second period. Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith went to the penalty box for four minutes at 7:58 after he took a one-handed swing at Carter with his stick and hit him in the neck/face area.
The Blackhawks' penalty-killers, who have dominated foes during these playoffs, were sensational again, limiting the Kings to one shot on goal in the four minutes.
Chicago was able to get on the board late in the second period. Bickell scored his seventh goal of the postseason with 33.6 seconds left.
The puck went into the left corner after a faceoff and two Kings players got tangled up with Chicago's Marian Hossa. All three players fell to the ice and Bickell swooped in to collect the puck unmarked. He went behind the net and beat Quick on a wraparound.
Bickell, who can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, now trails only teammate Patrick Sharp and Boston's David Krejci for the most goals in this postseason.
"It was definitely a big goal by [Bickell]," Keith said. "It got us going a little better going into the third. It was just that one goal, that one-goal difference, but give them credit -- they hung onto the lead."
Chicago came to Los Angeles with a 2-0 series lead after controlling both games at United Center. The Blackhawks scored twice in the second period to claim a 2-1 victory in Game 1 and then were on the front foot in Game 2 from start to finish in a 4-2 triumph.
This is not the first time thus year that Los Angeles has returned home for Game 3 of a playoff series in a 2-0 hole. The St. Louis Blues took the first two games in their opening round against the Kings, but Los Angeles won four straight to advance.
After losing only four times to claim the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, the Kings have already lost seven times in this postseason. But they're also a win in Game 4 from being all even in this series and two victories away from a chance to repeat.
"This is kind of what I expected it to be when we did this last year," Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown said. "In retrospect, you look back and after it was all said and done I talked to guys who had won a Cup before and they talked about how hard it is [to repeat]. Last year, I thought we were playing at a level few teams ever played at, and this year we're finding it to be much more difficult -- not only in the nature of the games, but we've had to deal with injuries left and right. That's part of playoff hockey and something we didn't have to deal with last year. We're trying to learn how to deal with it quickly this year and trying to persevere."
|Justin Williams (6) ASST: Slava Voynov (6), Rob Scuderi (3)|
1 - 0 LAK
|Slava Voynov (5) ASST: Tyler Toffoli (3), Jeff Carter (4)|
2 - 0 LAK
|Bryan Bickell (7) ASST: NONE|
2 - 1 LAK
|EN - Dwight King (1) ASST: Jeff Carter (5), Matt Greene (2)|
3 - 1 LAK
|Anze Kopitar Tripping against Brandon Saad|
|Justin Williams Roughing against Patrick Sharp|
|Patrick Sharp Roughing against Justin Williams|
|Patrick Sharp Slashing against Brad Richardson|
|Johnny Oduya Interference against Jarret Stoll|
|Duncan Keith Hi stick - double minor against Jeff Carter|
|Marcus Kruger Hi-sticking against Tyler Toffoli|
|Dustin Brown Interference against Michal Handzus|