LOS ANGELES -- Dustin Penner tossed his black hockey bag to the side in a huff and looked as if he just finished a 90-second shift. The Los Angeles Kings forward turned to a group of reporters and cameras and summed up the difference in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Thursday.
"Turnovers in the neutral zone at both our blue line and their blue line," Penner said. "Untimely goals against. [We] kill off a couple of big penalties and then give up a 2-on-1 because of a bad change."
Penner rudely dismissed another question about how well Chicago skated and, when asked about the level of frustration, said, "I think you got the point."
It was that kind of night Thursday for Penner and the Kings: Winded from chasing the puck and keeping it out of their end, and frustrated over trailing 3-1 in the best-of-7 series.
Sloppiness and ill-timed line changes cost the Kings two goals. The Blackhawks' game-winner came off a neutral-zone turnover as L.A. changed and defenseman Jake Muzzin was left to try to thwart a 2-on-1 finished by a rocket one-time blast from Marian Hossa that made it 3-2 1:10 into the third period.
"That's the one thing that [coach] Darryl [Sutter has] been hard on us for right now," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We're making too many turnovers in the neutral zone, especially, and that was the cause of two of the goals tonight. We made turnovers and they came back down on odd-man rushes and scored. That's something that we're not doing a good job at, and something, if we want to win, something we're not doing."
In the second period, Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane pushed the puck across the goal line after Chicago hemmed in L.A. and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson's shot was deflected by forward Bryan Bickell before Kane finished off a strong sequence.
Los Angeles was charged with eight giveaways and one takeaway, a mighty struggle against a Chicago team that lives on puck possession.
"It's an incredibly skilled team," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "We're not getting into something that we didn't know, and when you turn the puck over like that at the blue lines, with the skill they have, it's only a matter of time before they're going to put one on the scoreboard. So hopefully we learned our lesson and we've got to win the next one."
Game 5 is Saturday at United Center in Chicago (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
Game 4 saw uncharacteristic sloppiness from the Kings that belied a control-freak play with the puck they had demonstrated during a 15-game home winning streak.
"It's not what makes us successful, that's for sure," captain Dustin Brown said of the errors. "We understand that in our room. Now it's a matter of refocusing and preparing not to do it again."
Contrarian Kings coach Darryl Sutter did not agree that turnovers were a factor, but L.A. clearly had difficulty with Chicago's transition game. The Kings did not put a shot on goal in the third period until 11:23 and finished with two in the final 20 minutes. That included zero on a power play in the final five minutes and one shot total during their three power plays.
Brown and Anze Kopitar were the main culprits. Brown had no shots; Kopitar had one.
"I think they did a good job shutting us down," Sutter said. "You look at who has the shots, it's probably going to show that some of our top guys didn't."
For Los Angeles to extend the series it must re-establish the possession game it showed during its home win streak, but on the road in an elimination situation.
"We had this stretch of home games because we worked hard for it, not because we expected it or assumed that we were going to win," Brown said. "That's not to say that when they scored that third goal we don't think we're coming back as a group. I think everyone fully believed that, and tonight it didn't happen for us."
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