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Carter-Toffoli-Pearson line comes up big again

by Corey Masisak

CHICAGO -- Before Game 2 of this Western Conference Final at United Center, Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter dismissed a question about a line comprised of Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli because he felt they weren't playing together as much as they seemed to be getting credit for.

Sutter mixes and matches his lines a lot in certain situations. He gives and withdraws playing time from certain players based on how they are performing. It's not a perfect fit to say Carter and the two rookies make up Los Angeles' "second line" because Pearson and Toffoli typically end up near the bottom of time on ice among the forwards.

All of that said, those three players had a huge impact on Game 2. Carter finished with a hat trick and four points, all in the third period, and that line accounted for two important insurance goals to put this one out of reach for the Chicago Blackhawks in a 6-2 victory Wednesday that evened the series at 1-1.

"I didn't really have to do too much for them," Carter said of his goals. "Stood in front of them for the first one. [Matt Greene] and Tanner made a great play on the second one.

"It was a good period, but didn't really have to do too much."

Carter eventually ended up with the hat trick, though his first goal was actually awarded to him last. He tipped a shot from Drew Doughty with the Kings on the power play early in the third period to tie the score at 2-2.

"Their penalty killers do a great job of getting in lanes," Carter said. "Their 'D' front a lot of pucks. It's tough to get them through. We got two pucks [through] tonight all game and they both ended up in the net. It's still something we need to improve on, but it's a good start."

After another power-play goal gave Los Angeles the lead, Carter and the kids took over. A Blackhawks shot attempt was blocked in front of goaltender Jonathan Quick, and the puck came to Carter in the high slot.

He skated with it out of danger and into the Blackhawks zone before firing a shot off goalie Corey Crawford. The puck bounded high into the air, and most of the players on the ice slowed down expecting it to hit the netting behind Crawford.

Pearson kept skating, and collected it before finding Toffoli cutting to the net for a goal and a 4-2 lead.

"I don't think they knew where it was," Pearson said. "So I saw it, I knew [Toffoli] would be in the slot somewhere so I just passed it out there and fortunately he was there and put it in."

Carter said, "It seemed like everybody kind of stopped. Tanner and Tyler made a great play to keep going. There was no whistle, so..."

Pearson made another nice play on the next goal. He chipped it off the wall in his own zone to Carter, who was set free on a 2-on-1 with Toffoli. He opted not to pass and ripped a shot past Crawford to make it a 5-2 lead before later adding an empty-net goal as well.

Carter had four points in a total of 14:52 in the third period. He tied an NHL playoff record for most points in a third period, and his three goals tied a Kings postseason record set by Tommy Williams on April 14, 1974, also against Chicago.

"It was definitely different [in the third period]," Carter said. "It seemed like they had us on our heels for pretty much the first two periods. I think that goal [late in the second] really got us going. You start to feel good about yourself, start to feel a little better."

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