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Blackhawks' new line confounded Kings in Game 5

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter isn't always chatty after games, but give it some time and he'll bluntly voice his assessment. That was the case Thursday, when on an off day he stated what happened the night before in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.

The Chicago Blackhawks made a strategic move putting together a line of Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane, and it exploited the Kings for a goal, eight assists and a combined plus-10 rating in a 5-4, double-overtime win Wednesday.

It's unusual for the dynamic of a Stanley Cup Playoff series to change late, but that move largely kept Chicago's season alive and forced Game 6 on Friday at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

Los Angeles leads the best-of-7 series 3-2.

Sutter, who didn't talk about Chicago's changes after Game 5, acknowledged Thursday "the adjustment was we couldn't keep up with Saad." Asked about having the answer to counter the line, Sutter said, "The guys that played against them last night were not on top of their game, and that's the answer."

That's a direct reference to the third line of Dwight King, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams, as well as the fourth line of Kyle Clifford, Mike Richards and Trevor Lewis. Lewis and Clifford were on the ice for three even-strength goals by Chicago, and Richards was on for two.

Sutter will have last line change in Game 6 and can match up better. But the Kings' homework extends to limiting the Blackhawks offensively after the Saad line. As exciting as Game 5 was, the up-tempo pace that produced scoring chance after scoring chance is not what Los Angeles wants. Chicago had 45 shots on goal, Los Angeles had 44, and they combined for 20 shots in 22:04 of overtime.

"I wouldn't say slowing the game down, but you definitely don't want to trade chances with them," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "They're that type of team where, if you do that, it's usually not going to end well. We're known not to play that kind of hockey. This time of the year, that doesn't work so well. We've got to get back to playing our game."

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