CHICAGO – Jeff Carter and the Los Angeles Kings know how to come back in the playoffs. This was no big deal compared to the first two rounds.
Carter scored three of Los Angeles’ six straight goals, and the Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2 on 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 postseason. 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 2-2 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 a single postseason 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.
“Obviously, things unraveled during the third,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. “We’re not happy. And we’re looking forward to getting on the plane and making up for it in Game 3.”
Jonathan 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.
The Blackhawks got off to a strong start, using their speed to draw four penalties in the first period alone. Brandon Saad was responsible for two of the calls, making a pair of nice moves that ended with Matt Greene in the box for hooking and Doughty sent off for holding.
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 it 2-0 at 1:40 of the second. It was Leddy’s second career playoff goal. He also scored on April 21, 2012, at Phoenix.
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 defenseman’s shot.
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 Los Angeles carried the momentum over to its big third period.