LOS ANGELES -- Recent history says teams that struggled heavily on the power play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs still went on to win the Cup. The Boston Bruins scored 10 power-play goals during their 2011 run. The Los Angeles Kings scored 12 in 2012, and three of those came in a series-clinching blowout win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Kings remain a suffocating defensive team in these playoffs like they were in 2012, and they've added a potent power play that is capitalizing against what was one of the better penalty-killing units in the NHL.
Defenseman Jake Muzzin and captain Dustin Brown scored power-play goals in a three-goal first period Monday that led Los Angeles to a 5-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. Game 5 of the best-of-7 series, which the Kings lead 3-1, is Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Kings improved to 5-for-12 in the series and are 16-for-56 on the power play in the past 16 games. They were 12-for-94 during the 2012 postseason.
"It's been huge for us," Muzzin said. "It gets us some momentum. We're looking for our power play to create that momentum, not necessarily always get a goal. We've been fortunate getting pucks and getting some goals. It's helping us out a lot."
Muzzin wristed in a shot from the slot with Jeff Carter setting a screen in front of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford at 9:00 of the first period. The possession started when the puck bounced off the stick of Jonathan Toews, and the Kings were able to keep it in the zone. Brown easily put in a puck that deflected off Justin Williams' stick from Muzzin's point shot at 15:56 of the first. Williams made the play happen with frenzied work on the wall to retain possession.
It's that kind of manic energy that is fueling Los Angeles with the man advantage against a Chicago team that was among the League's best penalty-killing units through the first two rounds.
"We're attacking," Kings left wing Marian Gaborik said. "We have to shoot the puck. We have to keep it simple, not try to get too fancy. So we've just got to shoot the puck and get to Crawford. It's easy to get the mindset that we just have to keep it simple and try to shoot the puck and crowd the net and go to the net. If there's a shot on goal, we have bodies to recover the puck and just start over."
Gaborik is another big reason the power play is surging. Six of his playoff-leading 10 goals have come with the man-advantage. His chemistry with Anze Kopitar is impressive, and his presence is giving the opposition another skilled set of hands to account for in the defensive zone.
"I think when any team that's scouting us, they're looking at the weapons that are out there and he's one of the biggest ones, especially in the slot area, which is where he gets a lot of his goals," Williams said. "Regardless if he gets the puck or not, they pay attention to him. If he doesn't score, which is not very often, someone else is going to have a great chance."
Defense - LAK
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 11
SOG: 34 | +/-: 3
Muzzin has gradually developed the vision and patience to go along with his strong shot. His emergence as a top-pairing defenseman gives the Kings an additional complement to Drew Doughty
, who assisted on Muzzin's goal and scored on a wrist shot from the right point to make it 4-0 in the second period.
"We're trying to simplify it a little bit," Doughty said. "We're just trying to get pucks up to the D-men, trying to get shots that way. My mentality on the first one, just kind of get a shot off, a one-timer, no matter what it was. If it hits the guy, it hits the guy. Just want to get that in their heads that we're going to be shooting pucks. The more you shoot, the more things open up. We took advantage of those things."
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville had to agree.
"Well, they're shooting the puck," Quenneville said. "They're shooting it and they're going in."
After several short answers in a packed press-conference room, Kings coach Darryl Sutter was asked about the effect of killing off two early penalties then turning around and scoring two on the power play.
"Yup," Sutter said. "Clearly the difference in the game. The first period, it's special teams; there's four total [on the power play and penalty kill], and that's the difference."