By Brad Gardner
The Los Angeles Kings held serve with a 3-1 win on home ice over the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Goals from Justin Williams and Slava Voynov spotted the Kings a 2-0 lead, which was enough for Jonathan Quick and a tight-checking Kings defense to remain undefeated at home during the playoffs.
Corey Crawford stopped 25 of 27 shots and kept his team in the game the whole way. The penalty kill also played a big part in keeping the score close, finishing a perfect 5-for-5 against the Kings powerplay. Despite the loss, the Blackhawks maintain a 2-1 series advantage.
Bryan Bickell scored the lone goal for the Blackhawks and nearly knotted the game on a pair of chances in close late in the third period.
Justin Williams put the Kings on the board early in the first period, beating Crawford with a wrist shot at the 3:21 mark of the first period. Nick Leddy had the puck on his stick with a chance to clear, but his backhander was knocked down and kept in by Williams. The puck eventually reached defenseman Slava Voynov, who found Williams sneaking in on the weak side for the goal.
Each team had a powerplay chance in the first period, but the teams went to the first intermission at a score of 1-0. The Kings had a 8-7 advantage in the shot column but there were many more chances, particularly from Jeff Carter, generated by the home team in the opening period.
Slava Voynov extended the lead at 6:37 of the middle frame. A centering pass on the rush just missed Tyler Toffoli, but the winger was still able to recover the puck in the corner. He carried back to the front of the net and got a look on goal, but it was saved and the puck slid out the other side of the goal. Voynov pinched in to one-time the loose puck, but his stick broke during the shot, resulting in a slower puck sneaking inside the post to the short side on Crawford.
Just over a minute later, Duncan Keith was whistled for a double minor penalty for high-sticking Jeff Carter. The penalty was behind the play, after Carter put his stick near Keith’s hand as he bent over to pick up his glove. Keith retaliated with a stick swing that caught Carter up high, opening a wide gash on Carter’s chin. The ‘Hawks killed off the penalty with relative ease, keeping the Kings pinned to the boards even when they were able to sustain time in the offensive zone.
The penalty kill did not immediately change the tide, but eventually Bryan Bickell put the ‘Hawks on the board with just over 30 seconds remaining in the second period. Marian Hossa chased the faceoff down into the corner of the offensive zone but went down and took both Kings defenseman down with him. Bickell picked the loose puck up behind the net and skated around and out to the front of the net before anyone could get to him, sliding the puck underneath Quick to draw the Blackhawks within one goal going into the second intermission.
The Blackhawks had their chances in the final frame. A third period powerplay yielded plenty of offensive pressure and the ‘Hawks were able to work the puck down near Quick’s crease on a couple occasions. Bickell and Marian Hossa each just missed on golden opportunities during the advantage.
Later in the third period, Viktor Stalberg had Brandon Saad set up on a rush but sent the pass into his feet. Duncan Keith nearly broke in on another rush shortly after as he caught the Kings on a wholesale change, but the play was whistled offsides.
The ‘Hawks best chance came from the stick of Bickell, who picked up a rebound and lifted a wrist shot over Quick’s pad. The Kings goalie made perhaps his flashiest save of the game, extending his left arm to get a piece of the wrist shot.
Dwight King iced the victory with an empty-net goal at 19:32 of the third period. Carter took a shot from the opposite side of the rink but missed the net. King was the first to the puck however and made it the final 3-1 score. The play followed what appeared to be a missed icing call on the Kings previous clear.
– Corey Crawford was sharp again. He limited his rebounds and soaked up a lot of long shots through traffic.
– The Kings dominated the dot the whole game, finishing with 34 wins to Chicago’s 24. They also carried the physical game, particularly in the early-going of the game. Jarret Stoll led all players with 5 hits.
– Niklas Hjalmarsson led the game with four blocked shots, one of which caught him on the inside of his left knee. He sprawled down on the ice for a few seconds but the Kings powerplay was not whistled dead. Hjalmarsson eventually fought his way back up to his feet, even though he wasn’t particularly mobile, and he was able to get to the bench once the ‘Hawks cleared.
– Defenseman Jake Muzzin returned to the lineup, but center Mike Richards remained out for the Kings.
– 3 Stars of the Game: 3. Jeff Carter… 2. Justin Williams… 1. Slava Voynov.
– Game 4 will be Thursday in Los Angeles, another 8pm central start time.