By Sidney Brown, WARR contributor
Full speed ahead was the theme for the Los Angeles Kings as they dominated the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, registering a 3-1 victory to get back into the series.
From the opening face-off, the Kings took control of the contest by out-shooting, out-skating and out-hitting the Hawks. The Kings held the shots on goal advantage by one (8-7) after the first period and that would increase as Justin Williams, who scored in Game 1, returned to the back of the net with his second goal of the series and his sixth of the playoffs at 3:21 in the first.
The momentum continued in the second period as Kings defensemen Slava Voynov netted his fifth goal of the playoffs at 6:37 as the lead stretched to a 2-0 margin. The Hawks weren’t on top of their game for most of the night but towards the end of the second period they woke up to a degree as Bryan Bickell scored on a wrap around shot that got by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, cutting LA’s lead in half (2-1).
As the third period began, the Kings played a simple game by being physical and having strong forechecks. Kings defenders helped out Quick by clearing out the puck and not allowing too many second chances for Chicago. Third line winger Dwight King sealed the deal for L.A. by delivering an empty net goal, his first of the playoffs, at 19:32 in the third. The Kings dominated the shots on goal category for the game with a 28-20 advantage.
The 18,447 patrons at Staples Center certainly got what they wanted which was another home victory, their 15th in a row dating back to March and the eighth straight home win in this year’s playoffs. Quick responded tremendously after being pulled in Game 2 in Chicago by saving 19 of 20 shots, a save percentage of .950% for Tuesday night. Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford had another stellar performance with 25 saves and a .926 save percentage, you can’t blame him for the lack of offense that he was faced with. The Hawks tried their best but it wasn’t enough and sometimes you have to give credit to the other team.
With their backs against the wall and staring at a potential 0-3 series deficit, Game 3 belonged to the Kings and they played with desperation and renewed energy for 60 minutes. My Game Puck for Game 3 goes to Quick for his bounce back performance, including some key saves down the stretch to seal the deal for the Kings.
Game 4 renews the series at 8 pm central time Thursday on the NBC Sports Network.
First, to the Hawks penalty kill unit for blanking the Kings on their man advantage (0-5).
Second, to Kings go-to scorer Jeff Carter for tallying two assists in Game 3. Carter has been, to me, the only consist player on offense for the Kings in this series.
Third, to Kings center Jarret Stoll for leading the charge in the hitting department with five as he helped set the tone for the Kings. Stoll’s teammates Dustin Penner and Matt Greene chipped in with four hits each.
Also, Bickell scored his seventh goal of the playoffs, which puts him third overall in the NHL in goals scored this playoff season, just behind teammate Patrick Sharp at No. 2 and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby at No. 1.
Last but not least, to Hawks defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson, known for his shot blocking, for taking a slap shot off his right leg in the third period while his team was killing off a penalty (Marcus Kruger, high sticking at 1:52). Blocked shots is a stat that gets overlooked and the players who sacrifice themselves to stop pucks before it reaches the goalie are often taken for granted. Hjalmarsson is one of the team leaders for the Hawks in that category and the shot that he took off his leg came with great pain. After barely skating to the bench to catch his breath, Hjalmarsson returned to the game, a little gimpy but courageous in my book.
First, to the Chicago Blackhawks power play for going 0-2. I’ll say it again, this must improve in order for Chicago to win this series.
Second, to the Kings power play for going 0-5.
Third, to Hawks go-to goal scorers Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp for combining for a total of four shots on goal in Game 3 and no points. Kings superstars Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown combined for a total of one shot on goal themselves and no points Tuesday. Kopitar, who has been a non-factor in this series to this point, MUST pick up his play on the score sheet if the Kings want to make back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances.
For the LA Kings, will their physical play continue to wear down the Hawks? What adjustments will the Hawks make for a better result in Game 4? Which power play unit will finally show up? Which superstars for the Hawks (or the Kings) will step up scoring wise? Will the home winning streak continue for the Kings? Will the Hawks pick up an important road win to put a strangle hold on this series? And will the Kings gather up enough energy and muscle and tie this series at 2-2? So many questions that we’ll find out the answers to on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
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