Blackhawks crown Kings to take 3-1 series lead
LOS ANGELES — The Kings were on a line change.
The Blackhawks were focused on stealing a game at Staples Center and taking a commanding lead in the Western Conference finals.
The two objectives collided near the Kings’ blue line on Thursday night and the Blackhawks swiftly took advantage, the wide-open ice beckoning them as they charged toward Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and then beat him when Marian Hossa blasted a goal that gave Chicago control of the series.
The Blackhawks beat the Kings 3-2 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. They can punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday in Chicago, where they beat the Kings decisively in Games 1 and 2.
Control came to the Blackhawks through resiliency and doggedness, twice flicking off one-goal advantages for the Kings by continually mounting pressure on the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Until finally Hossa gave them the 3-2 lead — their first of the game — when the Kings botched a line change early in the third period to give the Blackhawks a nearly clear path to Quick.
Before that, it was an uphill climb for the Blackhawks, who were battling Quick and a Kings team that had not lost at home in the playoffs in eight games.
Slava Voynov, a catalyst during the postseason for the Kings, shocked the Blackhawks three minutes into the first period when he launched a 40-foot slap shot past Corey Crawford to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
Voynov has been a revelation this postseason. The goal was his sixth in the playoffs.
But Chicago’s Bryan Bickell tied it midway through the period when he knuckleballed the puck between the legs of Quick, the shot having just enough juice to make its way to the net to for a 1-1 tie.
Kings left winger Dustin Penner made it 2-1 early in the second period when he alertly poked the puck past Crawford as it laid in front of the crease.
Then it was up to the Kings defense, which killed off two more power plays, including a two-man advantage the Blackhawks did nothing with.
But late in the period, the Blackhawks went to work on Quick, forcing the issue with a flurry of shots that ultimately paid off when Patrick Kane beat Quick with 1:39 left in the period to make it 2-2.
The period ended with the Blackhawks on the power play and momentum leaning their way, although they were even with the Kings on the scoreboard and the shot sheet, with both clubs taking 19 shots.
NOTES: As far as Kings center Jeff Carter is concerned, the high stick he took from Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith on Tuesday night in Game 3 that resulted in a gash below his lip and cost Keith a one-game suspension is a closed matter. “It’s over with. It’s done with,” Carter said. “We’ve got a pretty big game to worry about. I’m not too worried about the incident.” It’s a different matter for the Blackhawks, who played Game 4 without their best defenseman. “Obviously, having (Keith) out of the lineup for tonight’s game, it’s a big loss for us,” defenseman Michal Rozsival said. “But it is what it is. We all have to step up our game and be a little better.” ... Injured Kings center Mike Richards didn’t play for the third consecutive game after suffering a concussion on a hit from Chicago’s Dave Bolland in Game 1. “He didn’t skate today, so he won’t play tonight,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after the team’s morning skate. “I think protocol is very clear. He hasn’t recovered enough. Concussion. Surely, you know the protocol.” ... Left winger Dustin Penner, Carter and right winger Tyler Toffoli have formed a formidable second line. Toffoli, a rookie, has a goal and two assists in the series. “He’s (21) years old and that’s a lot of pressure,” Sutter said. “He was good last game. He was good the game before that. Struggled in the San Jose series. ... I don’t put any pressure on the player. That player, (I) just want him to be good shift to shift. If he doesn’t, I’m not going to say, you’re a bad boy or something. I’m not going to play him, that’s all.”