Slava Voynov scored what proved to be the winning goal goal while shattering his stick.
It was good to be home again, and a little luck didn’t hurt, either, for the Kings.
The Kings rebounded from their lost weekend in Chicago and earned a 3-1 victory over the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference on Tuesday night at Staples Center. The Kings were equal parts fortunate and good while cutting their series deficit to 2-1.
Game 4 is Thursday at Staples Center.
Game 5, now necessary, is Saturday in Chicago.
The Kings looked nothing like the team that was outplayed during the first two games of the best-of-7 series, and that was by design. Coach Darryl Sutter shuffled his lines and the Kings played tighter defense by putting the Blackhawks on the defensive.
Voynov, Justin Williams and Dwight King scored for the Kings and goaltender Jonathan Quick rebounded from getting pulled from a 4-2 loss Sunday in Game 2, giving up only Bryan Bickell’s second-period goal after a coverage breakdown.
“I think there’s been enough talk about Jonathan Quick,” Sutter said before the game. “We need a big game out of him. We need great goaltending to beat Chicago and we can’t allow four goals and think we’re going to beat Chicago.”
Quick delivered a bounce-back game, but the Kings eased his burden by building a 2-0 lead in the second period and altering their offensive attack in a subtle but effective manner that kept the Blackhawks off balance and off the score sheet for most of the game.
“You’ve got to put the puck behind them and make them play defense,” Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “I thought our forwards did a great job of that. I’m hoping we learned our lesson from Chicago. We tried to make a lot of plays .. and it came back to bite us.”
Quick’s best save came when he denied Bickell from point-blank range in the closing minutes. Earlier, Brandon Saad couldn’t settle the puck down after a centering pass from Viktor Stalberg and Duncan Keith skated in alone after a poor Kings line change, but the play was offside.
Chicago cut the Kings’ lead to 2-1 after a coverage breakdown left Bickell uncovered behind the net. Kings defensemen Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr converged on Marian Hossa in the left corner. The puck trickled to Bickell and he skated in front of the net and scored.
Voynov continued his remarkable offensive surge during the playoffs, scoring his fifth goal to make it 2-0 at 6:37 of the second period. He scored despite the fact that his stick broke as he unleashed his shot from the right faceoff circle.
Voynov became the first Kings’ defenseman to score five goals in a single postseason.
“I’m just glad he broke his stick and got the puck on net,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said, smiling. “He breaks more sticks than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Williams gave the Kings a much-needed lead with his sixth goal of the playoffs, whipping a shot past Chicago’s Corey Crawford only 3:21 into the game. It was Williams’ fourth goal in four games, dating to Game 7 of the Kings’ second-round victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Seeking a way to jump-start the Kings’ lackluster offense after losses of 2-1 and 4-2 in Games 1 and 2 in Chicago, Sutter shuffled his lines for Game 3. Sutter dropped struggling center Anze Kopitar from the first line to the third and promoted Jarret Stoll.
As they were in Game 2, the Kings’ second line of Dustin Penner, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli were their best combination in the early going in Game 3. Carter, for instance, played with a sense of purpose that was absent at times earlier in the season.
In fact, Carter played his customary offensive-minded role, but also worked to get under the Blackhawks’ skin, which resulted in what could have been a pivotal moment. Carter assisted on Voynov’s goal and drew a double-minor for high sticking on Keith.
Carter and Keith tangled near the Chicago net, with Carter swiping Keith’s stick. Carter then appeared to slash Keith on the hand as the play headed the other way. Then, with the pair trailing far behind the puck, Keith smacked Carter in the face, drawing a penalty at 7:58 of the second.
The Kings failed to click on the extended power play, however.
Keith appeared to offer an apology after his release from the penalty box and Carter’s return from the Kings’ dressing room for medical treatment. Carter didn’t seem to acknowledge Keith’s words during a stoppage in play, however.
“It was accidental,” Keith told reporters after the game. “Obviously, I wanted to give him a tap, but not sure where I got him. I felt bad. I’m glad to see that he came back. It was just a scuffle. It was an accident.”
Asked he was worried the NHL might suspend him, Keith said, “I have no idea. I said it was an accident.”