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Toffoli-Carter-Pearson line contributes again for Kings

by Corey Masisak

CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Kings had already survived two seven-game series against geographical rivals to reach Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at United Center. They also played a game less than 48 hours prior 2,000 miles away.

The young forwards on the second line certainly didn't look like they were tired Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Rookies Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli connected for the team's lone goal, and Toffoli nearly had another.

"Thought the line was good," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Jeff [Carter], Tanner, Tyler. Obviously, they scored a big goal. Tyler's play, he was a good player for us last year against Chicago too. I'm sure there wasn't any intimidation coming into this building. Played with Jeff and [Dustin] Penner on a good line here last year."

A little more than a minute after a disallowed goal for Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, Toffoli scored his fourth goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a little help from his linemates. He skated by Chicago forward Brandon Bollig and was ready for a pass from Pearson for a redirection that he put past goaltender Corey Crawford at 4:35 of the second period.

"Good neutral zone play," Toffoli said. "[Carter] made a nice pass to [Pearson] and he drove wide. I was open there and just chipped it over his glove."

The 21-year-old Pearson joined Toffoli, 22, and Carter on a new-look line for Game 3 of the opening round against the San Jose Sharks. Toffoli and Pearson had played together in the past for the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, and the line seemed to click immediately.

Toffoli now has eight points and Pearson has six. They are the leading rookie scorers among guys still participating this postseason.

Pearson and Toffoli are swift skaters, something they share in common with Carter. The other three lines for the Kings might provide more brawn, but this combination has been a problem for opposing teams because of speed and skill, and plenty of tenacious play from the two kids.

"I think we played with speed and [strength]," Toffoli said. "We possess the puck and I thought we did that well, but obviously not good enough. We have to make sure we bear down on our chances."

Toffoli nearly had a second goal in this game as well. It would have leveled the score at 2-2, but his backhanded attempt hit the left post and he had Crawford down and out of position.

"I had an open net," Toffoli said. "It just kind of slid off my stick. It is just one of those things that happens once in a while. I have to regroup. I can't do that. I have to score there. That's my job, to score goals. I got to get that back for us next game."

The Kings played Friday night in Anaheim, but the Blackhawks had four full days to rest before the game Sunday. Chicago controlled the opening part of the first period, but eventually Los Angeles began to play better.

The Kings had 57 percent of the shot attempts at even strength, and slightly more of the prime scoring chances. At least two potential Los Angeles goals were thwarted by Chicago players not named Crawford. Toffoli's miss off the post was a bad break.

As defenseman Willie Mitchell said, coach Darryl Sutter would say "OK is not OK enough" against a team like Chicago, but the Kings did not look like a team overcome by lack of rest ... or the Blackhawks.

"No, I thought the energy level was there," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "I thought it was good. The emotions were there. I don't think fatigue was a factor."


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