LOS ANGELES — Slava Voynov had a goal and an assist, Jonathan Quick made 19 saves, and the Los Angeles Kings beat Chicago 3-1 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night, trimming the Blackhawks’ series lead to 2-1.
Justin Williams also scored and Dwight King added an empty-net goal in the defending Stanley Cup champions’ 15th consecutive home victory since March. The Kings have won eight straight home playoff games, dating to last season’s title clincher, and they never trailed while ending the top-seeded Blackhawks’ five-game post-season winning streak.
Game 4 is Thursday night.
Bryan Bickell scored and Corey Crawford stopped 25 shots for the Blackhawks, who chased Quick from Game 2 and earned back-to-back home victories to open the series last weekend.
The Kings had lost five of their previous seven playoff games before getting back to friendly Staples Center and their sellout crowd. Quick also returned to Conn Smythe Trophy form in Game 3, highlighted by a dazzling late save on Bickell, while his low-scoring teammates generated just enough offence to hold off the Blackhawks, who hadn’t lost since Game 4 of the second round.
Jeff Carter had two assists during an inspired effort despite the absence of injured linemate Mike Richards, and Voynov had his fourth multipoint game in a prolific post-season.
The Blackhawks matched their playoff low with just 20 shots, but the Presidents’ Trophy winners were one good bounce away from tying the score in the final minutes.
Brandon Saad nearly had an open net after a cross-ice pass from Viktor Stalberg with 5 minutes left, but couldn’t collect the puck. Moments later, Keith missed a near-breakaway at the Kings’ blue line when Chicago went offside — and Quick set off a frenzy in the crowd when he improbably stopped Bickell’s fine chance late.
The Kings played their second straight game without Richards, their leading post-season scorer heading into Game 3. The veteran centre has an apparent concussion after a big hit from Dave Bolland in the series opener.
Richards’ absence opened a lineup spot for promising rookie Tyler Toffoli, who has three points in the last two games. The 21-year-old AHL rookie of the year got the primary assist on Voynov’s goal.
After the Kings scored just 11 goals in their last seven games, coach Darryl Sutter shook up his lines while facing the prospect of a three-game deficit in the conference finals. Slumping centre Anze Kopitar, who might be playing with an injury, was moved back to the third line, while Jarret Stoll moved up to the Kings’ nominal top line between Williams and captain Dustin Brown.
Between the line changes and the desperation necessary in such a situation, the Kings came out with a noticeable edge and improved passing. They took the lead just 3:21 in on a strong sequence started and finished by Williams, who forced Nick Leddy’s turnover before scoring on a pass from Voynov.
Williams scored two goals in the Kings’ victory over San Jose in Game 7 last week, further burnishing his reputation as an elite post-season performer. The two-time Stanley Cup winner has six goals in the playoffs — four in the past six games — after scoring just 11 in the 48-game regular season.
Los Angeles kept up the pressure in the second period, with Carter and Toffoli generating sustained pressure before Voynov beat Crawford, who was screened. Voynov’s shot was doubly hard to stop because he broke his stick on the swing, turning it into a changeup.
The Kings got a four-minute power play moments later when defenceman Duncan Keith high-sticked Carter in the face, punctuating a bad-tempered game by opening a gash on Carter’s mouth.
But Los Angeles managed just one shot on that scoreless power play, and Bickell got the Blackhawks back in it with his seventh goal of the post-season in the final minute of the second period. Bickell was left untouched behind the net after Kings defencemen Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr both lost their footing, and the pending free agent skated in front alone to beat Quick with just Chicago’s third shot of the period.
After closing out the second round with three straight wins over Detroit, the Blackhawks kept humming in back-to-back games to open the conference finals, beating Los Angeles 2-1 and 4-2. The compressed schedule due to the Rolling Stones’ tour date at United Center means the clubs will play the series’ first four games in six days.
The Blackhawks even got to Quick, who had dominated the first two rounds with the same style that made him the Kings’ first Conn Smythe winner. Quick yielded just 20 goals in 13 games during the first two rounds.
The Blackhawks hadn’t been at Staples Center since both clubs’ season opener Jan. 19, when Chicago spoiled the Kings’ banner-raising ceremony with a 5-2 victory.