LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings' line of Jeff Carter flanked by rookies Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli has been instrumental in helping erase deficits late in each of the first two rounds of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They haven't waited nearly that long to have a dramatic impact on the Western Conference Final.
Carter had a goal and two primary assists to help the Kings defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in Game 3 at Staples Center on Saturday. Pearson had the lone assist on Carter's goal and Toffoli scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period.
"[Pearson and Toffoli] are working and they're having fun," Carter said. "They use their speed and their skill to create opportunities. Kind of dragging me along with them, so it's been good."
Jonathan Quick made 24 saves, defensemen Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty also scored goals and the Kings have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 4 is here Monday night (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Jonathan Toews had two early goals for the Blackhawks, and Patrick Sharp scored in the final seconds. Chicago is 2-5 away from United Center during this postseason, and the Blackhawks have lost the first road game of 10 straight playoff series, a streak that dates back to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
"We know we can find ourselves out of this tough situation," Toews said. "It's not ideal, it's not exactly what we wanted, to go into a series looking to go down 2-1. It's a good team over there. We know what we have to do. We have our work cut out for us."
Carter had four points in the third period of Game 2 and seven in a span of 52:54, including this game. He is second in the League this spring with 19 points, one behind teammate Anze Kopitar.
Pearson and Toffoli each have points in four straight games, and are tied with Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon and Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug for the most points by a rookie in this postseason. Carter, Pearson and Toffoli have combined for nine goals and 19 points in the Kings' past four games.
"Jeff has established himself as a pure goal-scorer over the years and [Toffoli] can sure put it the back of the net," Pearson said. "We're just trying to create offense. That's what we were brought here to do, and I think we're doing a good job of that so far and we just need to keep going."
After Toews scored twice in the first period, Carter got the Kings even at 2-2 thanks to a fortuitous break. Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya tried to get the puck out of danger by slapping it around the boards from behind his own net. But the puck hit an official; Pearson was able to corral it and find Carter in front for quick one-timer at 8:08 of the second period.
It was Carter's eighth goal of this postseason and 22nd since the start of the 2012 playoffs. That's five more than any other player; Chicago's Bryan Bickell is second with 17.
Toffoli put Los Angeles in front for the first time at 14:19. Shortly after the Kings killed off a penalty, Carter deflected the puck in the neutral zone and it proved to be a perfect pass to spring Toffoli past the defense. He raced in alone on Corey Crawford and slipped the puck under the goaltender's left pad for his sixth goal of the postseason.
The Kings dominated the third period and took a two-goal lead at 11:57, two seconds after a Chicago penalty expired. Jarret Stoll beat Toews on a left-circle faceoff in the offensive zone, and Justin Williams got the puck to the left point for Jake Muzzin. Doughty took a pass from Muzzin at the right point and bombed a shot through traffic for his second goal of the playoffs.
Toews opened the scoring at 5:26 of the first period with a shorthanded goal. He knocked the puck away from Williams in the neutral zone, then raced past defenseman Alec Martinez to retrieve it. He faked a slap shot and hesitated before snapping a shot past Quick.
Voynov scored 40 seconds later with the Kings still on the power play. Carter had the puck below the goal line and whipped a backhanded pass through traffic out to Voynov at the top of the circles. Voynov faked a shot to open a shooting lane, then fired from the edge of the left circle and didn't miss for his second goal of the postseason.
Toews added his second of the night at 13:19. Defenseman Michal Rozsival made a nifty move to find some space after a pass from Marian Hossa, but his shot didn't reach Quick. Toews was able to outmuscle Muzzin and kick the loose puck to his stick at the side of the net and put it in for his team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs.
That was it for the Chicago offense until Sharp scored with less than five seconds left in regulation. Hossa and Patrick Kane both had great chances when it was still 2-1 to extend the lead, but Quick was there. After Los Angeles took the lead, the Kings seemed to get stronger.
"We got to know the importance of every shift," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They got some guys that can make plays. They don't need much of an opportunity to score on. We got to make sure that we give them nothing."
After Chicago prevailed 3-1 in Game 1 of this series, Los Angeles has scored 10 goals in the past two. The Kings' top line, led by Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, led the offense in the first two rounds but has yet to score against the Blackhawks.
That hasn't been a problem for the Kings, thanks in large part to the trio quickly gaining fame as "That 70's Line" because of their jersey numbers.
"I think it's exciting as a player who's been here for a long time to see guys come up and have really good success on the offensive side of the puck," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "Everyone talks about how we're not an offensive team and that's probably our M.O. because we are very good on the defensive side of the puck. But to see some of the plays that they're making it's exciting to be a teammate. I'm sure it's exciting to be a fan."
|SHG - Jonathan Toews (7) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 CHI
|PPG - Slava Voynov (2) Slapshot - ASST: Jeff Carter (10), Drew Doughty (10)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Jonathan Toews (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Michal Rozsival (4), Marian Hossa (12)|
2 - 1 CHI
|Jeff Carter (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Tanner Pearson (8)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Tyler Toffoli (6) Wrist shot - ASST: Jeff Carter (11), Willie Mitchell (2)|
3 - 2 LAK
|Drew Doughty (2) Slapshot - ASST: Jake Muzzin (5), Justin Williams (7)|
4 - 2 LAK
|Patrick Sharp (3) Tip-in - ASST: Nick Leddy (4)|
4 - 3 LAK
|Michal Handzus Concealing puck|
|Alec Martinez Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Tanner Pearson Hi-sticking against Duncan Keith|
|Justin Williams Hi-sticking against Nick Leddy|
|Justin Williams Too many men/ice - bench|
|Nick Leddy Hooking against Jeff Carter|
|Michal Rozsival Hi-sticking against Kyle Clifford|