LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Carter was still in his skates with beads of sweat on his face when he sat down to talk with reporters. It was as if he was ready to take another shift in the latest edition of one of the NHL's best rivalries.
Carter helped the Los Angeles Kings take a big first step toward getting back into the Stanley Cup Playoff picture with a 4-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center on Wednesday. Carter scored twice and assisted on the game-tying goal as the Kings erased deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before Jake Muzzin's game-winner with 3:37 remaining.
Muzzin's wrist shot through traffic appeared to hit Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson on its way into the net. The Kings (21-15-12) held on for their third win in the past 12 games and second in their past eight home games. It was a victory that might have meant a little more than two points.
"You obviously enjoy playing the Blackhawks," Carter said. "Every time you play them it's an intense, exciting game. If you can't get up to play them, there's something wrong with you.
"They're a top team, and they have been for a long time. Hopefully it's a big confidence boost for us. After having some ups and downs, hopefully we can build off it and keep it going."
The Blackhawks (30-16-2) lost the opener of a six-game trip. They nearly tied the game in the final minute when they hit the post and could not score with the extra attacker after lifting goaltender Corey Crawford.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We hung in there. It was looking pretty good for us with that 3-2 lead late in the third. We just found a way to blow it."
Carter's big night came in the Kings' first game without center Mike Richards, a close friend of Carter's who was assigned to the American Hockey League earlier this week because of underperformance.
But Tyler Toffoli, who missed the previous six games with mononucleosis, made his presence felt when he tied it at 3-3 with 6:10 left in regulation, beating Crawford with a wrist shot from the high slot. Toffoli kept the puck in and was left open for Dwight King's pass.
"I think I was a little rusty at times, a little tired toward the end of shifts," Toffoli said. "[But] I think it was expected. I thought I was going to feel like that. I'm glad we got the win … tonight was a night that we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could win big games and we did it tonight."
The goal brought the sellout crowd of 18,525 to a roar. Chicago was set up for a regulation win when Andrew Shaw's 50th career goal gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead 2:25 into the third period. Shaw beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to the glove side to finish a rush after Teuvo Teravainen slid the puck to him at the right faceoff dot.
Chicago would have won its fifth straight regular-season game against the Kings and fourth straight at Staples Center if not for the late-squandered lead.
"We had a perfect spot," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had a perfect third period going and we don't get the puck out when we should have got it clearly out. They got the momentum back on that play and scored off the faceoff. It was definitely a tough loss."
Carter's second goal came on the power play 1:45 into the second period. He kept the puck away from Toews in the corner and beat Crawford to the glove side with a wrist shot.
Chicago's top line of Toews, Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa was on the ice for the Kings' third and fourth goals.
"I think our line is obviously looking at ourselves after that one," Toews said. "All three of us could have been a little more intelligent in our zone, getting the puck out, and not giving them those chances to score late in the game."
Carter tied it at 1-1 at 8:42 of the first period with a turnaround wrist shot from the slot, set up by defenseman Brayden McNabb. Carter nearly completed the hat trick in the second period when he stripped Toews and went in for a shorthanded breakaway but was stopped by Crawford.
Chicago took a 2-1 lead in the first on goals by Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane.
Sharp grabbed Kane's cross-ice pass and scored on a slap shot from the left side at 11:42. It came with Drew Doughty serving a tripping penalty, one of two by penalties by Doughty and three by the Kings in the first period.
Kane scored his 23rd goal 1:58 into the game. David Rundblad's shot hit McNabb and bounced to Kane for an open-net slap shot from the right side.
Sharp has 36 points in 30 regular-season games against the Kings. Shaw scored his first goal in nine career games against the Kings.