The Los Angeles Kings have taken a stranglehold in the Western Conference Finals against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. A strong first period resulted in the Kings going 2 for 2 on the powerplay, and finishing the first period with a 3-0 lead. The final two periods found Chicago playing a more sound game, generating chances on Jonathan Quick. But for the most part, the stingy defensive style of Los Angeles forced many of the Hawks shots from the perimeter, allowing Quick to make the easy saves. A strong surge in the third period found Bryan Bickell put one past Quick to make it a 4-2 game, but that would be a close as the Hawks would get in Game 4. Tanner Pearson was rewarded for another fantastic effort with an empty-net goal with just over a minute left in regulation. 'That 70's Line' was impressive again, registering a point each tonight. But it was the top line of Kopitar-Brown-Gaborik who delivered early for the Kings, who was able to ride the big first period surge on to a Game 4 win. Game 5 will be Wednesday night in Chicago, with the opening faceoff scheduled just after 7:00 CST. Thank you for joining Vavel USA this evening, and be sure to be back for Game 5 coverage. Have a goodnight.
Third Period 00:00: The Kings have taken a 3-1 series lead after winning Game 4 5-2.
Third Period 1:02: Kings goal! Tanner Pearson fires the puck in to the open Chicago cage to put the final stamp on the victory, making it a 5-2 Kings lead.
Third Period 3:01: Coach Qunenville has opted to pull his goalie, giving his team a 6 on 5 chance. With this much time on the clock, it's really a gamble by Chicago. Los Angeles takes its timeout.
Third Period 4:01: With a burst of speed, Tyler Tofolli blasts by the Hawks defense for a breakaway on Crawford. The Hawks goalie makes the glove save, giving his team a chance late in the third.
Third Period 5:15: Final TV timeout. Neither team is really able to crack the perimeter, which works out well for the Kings at this point. If both teams can only settle for dumping the puck low or shooting from far out, the style benefits Los Angeles.
Third Period 9:10: Second TV timeout. All Chicago this period, as they are controlling the puck in the Kings zone to create some opportunities. The Kings had to expect this attack, and must weather this storm if they hope to hold on.
Third Period 10:33: Blackhawks goal! After a flurry of chances at the Kings goal mouth, Bickell finds the back of the net. 4-2 Kings.
Third Period 10:52: First TV timeout. Chicago is coming at the Kings hard, but they still cannot generate many great opportunities. Quick looks as though he is ready to come up big when the Kings need him most.
Third Period 13:20: Quick makes his best save of the period, robbing Bryan Bickell with the left pad.
Third Period 15:20: Drew Doughty appears to be in pain after blocking a shot. Los Angeles really needs Doughty to be healthy; his presence on the blueline is irreplaceable
Third Period 17:10: Chicago's Peter Regin had a Kings stick stuck between his helmet and visor, yet no call was made. The ref is really letting them play tonight.
Third Period 18:32: Both teams are back to full strength.
Second Intermission: Shots were 9-8 in favor of Chicago, who also lead in faceoffs that period, 8-7. The Kings had the edge in shots, with a count of 13-12.
Second Intermission: From a Kings Perspective- Things are looking good the the boys in black tonight. Los Angeles has been near-perfect on the powerplay, and even better on the penalty kill. The special teams are proving to be the difference for the Kings. If they can continue to limit the Blackhawks chances here in the final frame, they can grab a stranglehold on the series. But they have to expect Chicago's big guns to come out hard in the third. This period will be a true test of the Los Angeles defensive game.
Second Intermission: From a Hawks Perspective- A better period from Chicago, as they tied the Kings that period in terms of goals scored, but they have their work cut out for them in the final twenty. The Kings are not allowing the Hawks to have anything on net, and what they have got through has been ineffective. They dodged a bullet late by having a King accompany Shaw in the box to create some 4 on 4 hockey. The Blackhawks need to press hard here, as they do not want to go home facing one more loss from golfing for the spring.
Second Period :32.8: After a few shifts on controlling the puck in the Kings end, the Hawks are heading to the box. Andrew Shaw will sit for holding the stick.
Second Period 2:55: Final TV timeout. The Kings are hoping this lead will hold going in to the third. A goal late here would be a huge momentum swing for either team for the final twenty of regulation.
Second Period 4:09: Second TV timeout. Chicago-before the Saad strike- had to be frustrated by the defensive trap they have fallen in to in Game 4. The Kings are allowing minimal shots on Quick, and for the most part, he's played well. Still 4-1 Kings.
Second Period 4:40: Quick with a huge save on Adrew Shaw to preserve the three goal lead.
Second Period 5:57: Blackhawks goal! Brandon Saad responds for the Hawks, putting a backhand over Quick's glove. 4-1 Kings.
Second Period 7:17: The goal is actually being credited to Drew Doughty, at least, for now.
Second Period 7:17: Kings goal! Justin Williams tips in a Drew Doughty shot to make it a 4-0 Kings lead.
Second Period 8:07: The Blackhawks are now 0 for 3 on the powerplay as the Kings are back to full strength.
Second Period 10:07: The Kings are called for too many men on the ice, putting the Hawks back on the powerplay.
Second Period 12:40: First TV timeout. The Kings are playing a tight defensive game, not allowing Quick to get any shots. If Chicago can't shoot, they can't score. Pretty simple concept really. They need to start throwing anything and everything on the Los Angeles net.
Second Period 13:00: The Blackhawks are pressing to crack the goose egg they have on the scoreboard. they are adding to their attack zone time, but they are not getting shots off. They have to get something on Quick if they hope to get something by him.
Second Period 15:16: The Blackhawks kill off the penalty, going back to full strength.
Second Period 17:16: The Kings are back on the powerplay as Andrew Shaw is called for cross-checking
First Intermission: Shots were 8-7 in favor of the Kings. Chicago lead in hits by a count of 11 to the Kings 8, but it was Los Angeles who had the edge in faceoffs, winning 14 of 24.
First Intermission: From a Kings Perspective- The Kings had a tremendous first period on the backs of their big boys. Kopitar, Brown, and Gaborik all looked great for Los Angeles, who found the back of the net three times on eight shots. The special teams came to play for the Kings, killing off two penalties thus far and scoring on both man advantages. Really, there is not much more Coach Sutter can ask from from his special teams units. If they keep this pace up in the middle frame, they should see themselves in the driver's seat.
First Intermission: From a Blackhawks Perspective- If anyone has seen the Chicago Blackhawks, can you please let them know Game 4 is underway? The Hawks had a strong first shift with Kane and Toews flying in the Kings zone, but after that it was all Los Angeles. Goaltender Corey Crawford looked shaky at best in the first twenty, and needs to shape-up in hopes of salvaging this game for his team. The Hawks looks frustrated, with Sharp's minor penalty exemplifying this feeling amongst the Hawks bench. They must regain their discipline if they want back in this game.
First Period 1:30: The Kings already seem to be trying to lock it down defensively, playing with the third man high in the offensive zone. This strategy is usually utilized when defending a lead. But can the Kings sit on this 3-0 lead? With Quick in net, they could.
First Period 3:40: The Kings have scored three goals on their last 4 shots. The Staples Center faithful is starting to chant Crawford's name. Will he remain in net for the Hawks?
First Period 4:04: Kings powerplay goal! Dustin Brown scores from just in front of the Blackhawks cage to make it a 3-0 Kings lead. The play was made by a great Muzzin pass.
First Period 4:56: Final TV timeout. The Kings are heading to the powerplay after Patrick Sharp of Chicago is heading to the box for roughing. The Kings wasted no time on their short powerplay time earlier. Surely, they would like to do the same with this two minute opportunity.
First Period 6:55 Kings defenseman Slava Voynov blocks a shot from the point and winces in pain. Curious to see if this will be a factor in his game. 2-0 Kings.
First Period 8:07: Second TV timeout. The Kings have score two goal on four shots on Crawford. If the Blackhawks were hoping from a comeback performance from their netminder, they've been let down early. Look for the Kings to push for a third to try to knock the Hawks on their heels in the first period.
First Period 8:47: Kings goal! Kopitar's line finds a way to solve Crawford. Kopitar steals the puck from Duncan Keith down low, only to find Marian Gaborik in front. Gaborik deflects the puck past Crawford to make it a 2-0 Kings lead. 2 goals on 2 shots in 1:13. This does not look good for Crawford and company. The Blackhawks have taken their timeout.
First Period 11:00: Kings powerplay goal! Shortly after Brown leaves the Kings penalty box, Jake Muzzin receives a beauty of a pass from Drew Doughty to snipe Crawford gloveside for a 1-0 Kings lead. Tyler Toffoli with the secondary assist.
First Period 12:29: Chicago will be killing a penalty of their own. Marian Hossa made contact with Jonathan Quick, and Quick sold the call well enough to send Hossa to the box for goaltender interference. 4 on 4 hockey for a bit, before an abbreviated Kings powerplay.
First Period 13:10 First TV timeout. Los Angeles must enjoy pushing their luck, because Dustin Brown will be serving a minor penalty for high-sticking. They looked good killing off Kopitar's penalty, but can the Kings do it again?
First Period 13:33: Los Angeles kills off the Kopitar minor, and are back to full strength. Chicago only had two shots on their man advantage.
First Period 14:04: Marian Hossa is robbed in front by the glove hand of Jonathan Quick. So far a stellar penalty kill for the Kings.
First Period 15:33: Kopitar's line produces the first good shift for Los Angeles, but Anze trips up Nicolas Hjalmarsson and head to the box for two. Chicago on their pirst powerplay.
First Period 18:00: Chicago looks quick, enjoying some puck possession time down low early.
First Period 20:00: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane line up on the same line to start tonight's game for Chicago.
6:00 PST: We are only minutes away from the start of Game 4. It will be interesting to see which team comes out with a strong start. The first few minutes could be a great time for either team to set the tone early in this pivotal matchup.
4:00 PST: The opening faceoff is scheduled for shortly after 6:00 PST. Stay with Vavel USA as we will bring you all the updates leading up to the start of Game 4.
3:50 PST: Neither team is expected to have any lineup changes for tonight's game. Expect Quick and Crawford to be between the pipes again for their respective teams this evening. Both goalies will need a better effort in Game 4, as both finished with sub-.900 save percentages. Unfortunately , Crawford's team was not able to make up for his less-than-average play. But look for Crawford to have a much better game. He should give the Blackhawks a huge chance to win this game with a great performance in net. Jonathan Quick knows to expect a tough challenge from Chicago and their abundance of firepower in Game 4. Look for Quick to be ready and have a terrific game for the Kings.
3:35 PST: Kings Captain Dustin Brown had a strong Game 3, although finishing with a plus/minus of -2. Brown has yet to register a point, but he has had his chances. Playing on a line with Gaborik and Kopitar will only help Brown find some scoring opportunities. His team needs more offensively from their Captain, who only has two goals in this postseason. If Los Angeles wins Game 4, Brown will have a major hand in the victory. He can be a crucial player for Los Angeles, and tonight he needs to be.
3:30 PST: Andrew Shaw returned to the Hawks lineup in Game 3 and did not disappoint. The Belleville, Ontario native seemed to have a jump in his step and was not afraid to try to mix it up after the whistle. His presence on the ice was huge for Chicago, as he was one of their leaders in Game 3 with six hits. Look for this tenacity down low in the Los Angeles zone pay off with scoring opportunities on Quick. If his Game 4 is similar to Saturday's affair, look for him to be a difference maker for the Blackhawks this evening.
3:20 PST: The Blackhawks were lead Saturday by their Captain, Jonathan Toews. Toews scored two goals for Chicago in Game 3, including a shorthanded goal early which had the potential to be a back-breaker for the Kings. If not for the Voynov powerplay goal shortly after, the Hawks could have built on that goal. However it seemed as though Toews could not get the scoring support from his teammates. With the exception of the two from Toews, only Sharp was able to solve Quick with just over five seconds remaining in regulation. The Sharp strike was too little, too late for Chicago, as they failed to tie it with the precious time left. Quick was good, but not stellar against the Hawks in Game 3. If the Hawks can get some better chances from their premier players (Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Brian Bickell have all failed to find the net through the first three game), they can hope to find a way to solve Quick.
3:10 PST: The Kings have strung together back to back wins against the Blackhawks, a feat that is not easy. Their recent success against a team that has dominated them as of late is due largely in part to the sensational '70's line' of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson. This line once again combined to lead the Kings offensively in Game 3, totaling five points for the trio. Chicago must find a way to neutralize the speed and creativity of this line if they hope to shut them down. Perason, although only registering a single point, was phenomenal on the forecheck, winning a lot of battles down low against a strong Chicago defense. As long as he continues to battle hard every shift, he will continue to generate opportunities for his linemates Carter and Toffoli, who have a knack for the back of the net recently. If the Kings can get their top line of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik, and Dustin Brown producing -who have a combined single assist thus far against Chicago- then they will have two very dangerous lines to throw at Corey Crawford and his defensive corps. Carter's line has been the story this series for Los Angeles, but they will need the support of Kopitar and Gaborik in Game 4.
3:00 PST: Good evening folks, and welcome to Vavel USA's coverage of Game 5 of the NHL Western Conference Final. The defending Stanley Cup-champion Blackhawks have dropped two straight to the Kings, after a 4-3 Kings victory in Game 3. Chicago looked to be on the right track early on in Game 3 with a Jonathan Toews shorthanded goal, but Los Angeles responded less than a minute later with a powerplay strike. The Kings were the better team for most of Game 3, holding the Blackhawks to just two goals until Patrick Sharp tipped a shot past Jonathan Quick to make it a 4-3 contest. Can Los Angeles find a way to beat the Hawks again on Staples Center ice, or will we see a bounce back game from the defending champs?