Western Conference Finals: Game 3 Recap
The Chicago Blackhawks fell to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in the third game of the Western Conference Final, their second loss in a row. The Kings now lead the series 2-1.
The Hawks needed an offensive boost after a 6-2 loss to the Kings three days before. Returning to the playoffs after seven missed games due to an injured right leg was Blackhawk Andrew Shaw, but his typically energetic presence did not have the strong impact his teammates might have wanted.
The Kings initiated many early opportunities to start the game off, ultimately drawing a penalty against Michal Handzus to put them on the power play. In their last game against the Hawks, LA scored on one of their four man advantages. Despite the Kings’ momentum and a deafening Staples Center, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored the first goal of the game short handed, as he stole the puck away from a King off the faceoff.
LA would not surrender their advantage just yet, and merely 50 seconds later, Slava Voynov scored after patiently waiting with the puck until he saw an opening. Chicago would later receive their first power play against Alec Martinez for a delay of game. Going into the game, Chicago has a 5.9% success rate on the road advantage. Their play reflected that unfavorable statistic, as poor passing led to a short handed opportunity that Corey Crawford was able to stop.
Chicago remained determined despite a poor power play, especially their top line of Toews, Bryan Bickell, and Marian Hossa. Toews, whose play seemed particularly aggravated throughout the game, put another one away for Chicago off of a pass from Hossa. They ended the period leading 2-1.
The second period brought more opportunities for the Kings, despite the fact that Chicago drew three ultimately unsuccessful penalties against them. The Kings upped their pressure on the Hawks in the Chicago zone, which eventually paid off in a Jeff Carter goal, his seventh point within the last 52:54 of the series tying the game at two.
The line centered by Carter and accompanied by Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson continues to be the standout trio of the conference final. Toffoli pulled the Kings ahead off of a neutral zone turnover nearly three-quarters into the period. He and his linemates are now combined for 15 points total this series.
The key to the Kings success started with their defense. In the third period, the Hawks had great difficulty in the offensive zone and their puck possession lacked longevity. Over half way through the period, the Kings led the Blackhawks in shots 12-2, a sign of the Kings’ severe pressure.
LA drew two penalties in the third, which combined for twelve shot attempts total. During the second power play against Chicago’s Michal Rozsival, one of those twelve, a slap shot from Drew Doughty, found the back of the net and secured the Kings’ win. With 4.2 seconds left in the game, Patrick Sharp scored a futile goal, ending the match at 4-3.
If the Hawks have any aspiration to repeat a cup win, they need to solve the riddle that is Jonathan Quick. This shouldn’t be as difficult as it has seemed over the past two games, considering the Hawks have a solid history against him. Ultimately, Chicago will need to work out the kinks in their road power play, which is now 1-for-21 this playoffs.
The Kings were resilient this game and have been throughout the playoffs. While they have the reputation for being relentless, the Blackhawks aren’t exactly known as the complacent team either. Their comeback against Detroit last post season after being down 3-1 in the series speaks volumes about the unpredictability of this Chicago team.
The Blackhawks will need a strong team effort, one including their two relatively quiet Patricks, in their next game if they plan to even up the score. They will next face off against the Kings at the Staples Center on May 26th at 9:00 PM, EST.