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 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 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 over the defending champion Blackhawks.
Gaborik, who joined the Kings on March 5 and immediately catalyzed their offence, took a momentary break from the businesslike atmosphere of the Kings’ dressing room and just plain marveled what Los Angeles has accomplished this spring.
“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 like this 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 their own chance to close it out in five.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Chicago.
“We’re not looking ahead,” Kings forward Justin Williams said.
“Chicago, I believe they’ve been down 3-1 before. Every team has been through experiences that have made them better. Stanley Cup championship teams like Chicago and us, we’ve been through a lot. We’ve persevered through a lot, and they’re down 3-1, we’re trying to squash them, and they’re trying to get some life.”
Two days after the Kings gritted out a 4-3 victory over Chicago in Game 3, they won again at Staples Center by scoring three goals on their first six shots of Game 4, capping an incredible three-game offensive performance by the lowest-scoring NHL team to make the post-season.
After trailing 2-0 late in the second period of Game 2, Los Angeles scored 13 goals in less than 100 minutes, capped by a dominant first period in Game 4.