LOS ANGELES – The ovations started after the Los Angeles Kings’ third goal in 16 minutes to open Game 4 of the Western Conference final, and the home crowd eventually serenaded its team off the ice for the first intermission.
The low-scoring Kings have become the Stanley Cup playoffs’ highest-scoring team. This defensive powerhouse is shutting down the Chicago Blackhawks’ big stars while pushing the defending champions to the verge of elimination.
Yep, the Kings deserved a hand – even if they insist they still haven’t done anything that’s really worth cheering.
Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and captain Dustin Brown scored in a dominant first period, and Los Angeles beat Chicago 5-2 Monday night to take a 3-1 series lead.
Muzzin and Drew Doughty each had a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Quick made 22 saves as the Kings moved to the brink of their second trip to the Stanley Cup final in three seasons with their third straight win.
Gaborik, who joined the Kings on March 5 and immediately catalyzed their offense, took a momentary break from the businesslike atmosphere of the Kings’ dressing room and just plain marveled at what Los Angeles has accomplished.
“To come into every game with that confidence, to have that mojo that you can win every game, that’s the difference,” Gaborik said. “It’s great to come to a team … and be part of a winning culture.”
Tanner Pearson added an empty-net goal for the Kings, who have been to the NHL finals just twice in franchise history, winning their only title in 2012. One year after Los Angeles lost the conference finals in five games to Chicago, the Kings have a chance to close it out in five.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Chicago.
“We’re not looking ahead,” forward Justin Williams said. “Chicago, I believe they’ve been down 3-1 before.”
“I don’t think we played that poorly,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “We made some mistakes, and their confidence snowballed on us. Next thing you know, it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how many shifts you spend in their zone. If the bounces aren’t going your way, it’s tough to get back in a game like this.
“We’re going to find a way to get those bounces again and get things rolling our way. We’ll work ourselves out of it,” he added.