LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and captain Dustin Brown scored in a dominant first period, and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference final.
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.
Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell scored and Corey Crawford stopped 16 shots for the Blackhawks, who didn’t get rolling until they trailed 4-0 late in the second period.
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.
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.
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 six shots in the first 16 minutes, capping an incredible three-game offensive performance by the lowest-scoring NHL team to make the postseason.
After trailing 2-0 late in the second period of Game 2, Los Angeles scored 13 goals in less than 100 minutes. After Muzzin scored on a power play and Gaborik added his 10th goal of the postseason, Brown banged a puck into an empty net for a 3-0 lead in Game 4, setting off multiple standing ovations from their delirious fans.
The Blackhawks shuffled their lineup after two poor offensive performances, beginning Game 4 with captain Jonathan Toews centering Bickell and Patrick Kane, who still doesn’t have a goal in the series.
Last year, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville teamed Toews with Kane — the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner — when his club fell into a 3-1 series hole against Detroit in the second round. The Blackhawks escaped that deficit on the way to their second Stanley Cup title in four years, but the Kings are an entirely different postseason challenge.
The Kings committed two offensive-zone penalties early in Game 4, but Chicago’s power play remained inept. After Marian Hossa negated a power play for the Blackhawks by running into Quick, the Kings went ahead when Doughty found Muzzin for a heavy slap shot past Carter’s screen.
The goal was the fifth of a revelatory postseason for Muzzin — the same number scored by Chicago star defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook combined.
Keith then set up the Kings’ second goal with a horrific turnover in his own end. Anze Kopitar threw the puck in front, where Gaborik redirected it through Crawford’s legs.
Brown then added his first goal since Game 7 of the first round against San Jose, and the Los Angeles crowd cheered its team to intermission.
The Kings kept pressing in the second, and Doughty put a long shot through traffic midway through the period. Doughty, the Kings’ leader in ice time, has goals in back-to-back games after scoring just once in the first 16 playoff games.
Chicago finally beat Quick when Saad scored on a backhand. The Kings sat back on defense to start the third period, and Bickell got just his second goal in eight games when he jumped on a loose puck in the slot with 10:31 to play.
NOTES: Chicago’s power play went 0 for 3, dropping to 1 for 24 on the road in the postseason. … The Blackhawks scratched F Brandon Bollig in favor of Peter Regin, who sat out Game 3 after Andrew Shaw’s return. … Game 6 would be Friday at Staples Center.
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