CHICAGO – One big stop by Jonathan Quick turned into a scoring spree for Jeff Carter and Los Angeles.
These resilient Kings can come back in a hurry.
Carter scored three of Los Angeles’ six straight goals, and the Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2 Wednesday night to even the Western Conference final at a game apiece.
Tyler Toffoli and Jake Muzzin also scored in Los Angeles’ five-goal third period to help the Kings become the first visiting team to win in Chicago this post-season. The Blackhawks won their first seven home playoff games this year, but the Kings skated right by Chicago after the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead in the second period.
“Just sticking with what we need to do,” Carter said. “You know, we got a good group of leaders in our room. We’ve been through comebacks and whatnot a lot lately. Obviously, not something we want to do. But we stick with it, grind it out, get the job done.”
The early deficit was just a small speed bump for Los Angeles, dubbed the comeback Kings for their play in the opening two rounds.
Los Angeles trailed 3-0 in its first playoff series against San Jose, and won four straight games to eliminate the Sharks. The Kings overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the second round against top-seeded Anaheim.
“We know we can win,” forward Jarret Stoll said. “That’s the bottom line. They’ve got a good team, but we feel we do too.”
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Nick Leddy and Ben Smith scored for Chicago, which won 3-1 in Game 1 on Sunday.
“The way it turned on a dime like that, I don’t know if we’ve seen a game like that all year where we’re doing everything all right and all of a sudden it was a disaster,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Chicago was in position for its fourth consecutive win before Carter redirected Drew Doughty’s slap shot by Corey Crawford to tie it at 2 just 1:37 into the third. Muzzin then had another power-play score at 4:04 that gave Los Angeles the lead.
Once the Kings got going, they appeared to get almost anything they wanted against the sagging Blackhawks. Tanner Pearson set up goals by Toffoli at 8:59 and Carter at 14:44, and Carter added an empty-netter for his seventh of the playoffs.
“We knew the third period was going to be our best period in this series so far,” Doughty said. “We were just adamant in here about coming out, taking the pressure, getting a goal early and we did that.”
It was the first time Los Angeles had five goals in single post-season period since May 7, 1993, against Vancouver, according to STATS. Wayne Gretzky had two of those goals and watched Wednesday’s game from a suite at the United Center.
It was the most goals allowed by the Blackhawks in a playoff game since a 6-1 loss to Detroit on May 24, 2009.
“Disappointing because we just didn’t find a way to keep playing the way we were playing the first and second,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “Yeah, it’s unfortunate we couldn’t bring that effort in the same way, and I guess we got what we deserved.”
Quick made 23 saves for the Kings, including a big stop on Brent Seabrook with Chicago trying for a 3-0 lead in the second.
“That’s a huge save for us,” Doughty said.
Leddy put Chicago in front with a power-play goal at 14:16 of the first, and Smith beat Quick on a line change to make 2-0 at 1:40 of the second.
The Blackhawks had another prime scoring chance when Kris Versteeg made a nice pass to Seabrook on a 2-on-1, but Quick got over to make a nice stop on the defenceman’s shot.
“Just trying to get it over the post,” Quick said. “Fortunate to get a piece of it.”
Quick’s play on Seabrook provided more time for the Kings to get back in the game, and they took advantage when Mike Richards’ pass to the crease went off Justin Williams’ right skate and past Crawford with 1:46 left in the second.
Williams’ sixth goal of the playoffs cut Chicago’s lead to 2-1 after two, and the Kings carried the momentum over to their big third period.
“That save, I would say, and I think on that goal at the end of the second period was big and gave us some momentum going into the third,” Kings centre Anze Kopitar said. “And obviously the two power-play goals don’t hurt at all.”
NOTES: Carter also had an assist in his first career four-point playoff game. He also scored three times in a 4-0 playoff win at Phoenix on May 15, 2012. … The Blackhawks played without F Andrew Shaw, who is out with a lower-body injury, but could return in Game 3.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap