LOS ANGELES – With a resounding third period comeback victory in Chicago last Wednesday to even up the Western Conference Final, the Kings looked like they had finally figured out the Blackhawks' weaknesses. In Game 3 last night, the Kings capitalized on those discoveries and took a series lead with a 4-3 victory.
Without question, the Kings of the 2014 Playoffs are a different team - perhaps moreso a changed team, since the beginning of the 2013-14 season. Los Angeles battled back against San Jose in the First Round of Playoffs after being down 3 games to 0. They also defeated the Western Conference point leaders, the Anaheim Ducks, in another dramatic seven-game series during Round 2.
And now, facing the defending Stanley Cup champions (the Kings were 0-3 versus Chicago during this year's regular season), the Kings not only broke the Blackhawks' 7-game postseason home winning streak last Wednesday, they now possess a series lead.
This is by no means a firm indication of how the rest of the series will play out though. Chicago was down, 2 games to 0 against their First Round opponents, the St. Louis Blues. After losing the first two games of that series, Chicago won four straight games to advance to the next round.
As for their Second Round of the Playoffs, Chicago won the first two games against Minnesota, but the Wild took Games 3 and 4. The Blackhawks came back to win two straight for the series win.
In short, both Los Angeles and Chicago are familiar with adversity. They are both resilient teams and have the ability to swing a series in their favor.
Last night's game at Staples Center perhaps represents a thumbnail view of the entire series. Chicago struck first just after 5 minutes from puck drop. Kings defenseman Slava Voynov responded with a power play goal less than a minute after that, and Chicago scored again before the end of the first period.
Battles on the ice swung back and forth, and the Kings developed a surge in scoring, putting three more on the board, with goals from Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Drew Doughty. Just before the end of the game, the Blackhawks managed to get one by Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Chicago is expected to make some changes in their lines, starting with their power play units.
Game 4 begins at 6 pm tomorrow night at Staples Center.