“We really have to be on top of our game here the first period,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We know that they’re going to have a lot of energy playing here in front of their home crowd.”
They weren’t, at least not offensively, and as a result a chance to put a stranglehold on the Western Conference finals came and went. Goals by Justin Williams, Slava Voynov and Dwight King made it a 3-1 Kings win in Game 3, cutting the Hawks’ series lead to 2-1.
Game 4 is Thursday at Staples Center. Bryan Bickell’s score late in the second period was the lone score for the Hawks, who managed just 17 shots on net total against the Kings’ Jonathan Quick.
Until the Bickell score, the Hawks were comatose offensively, mustering all of two shots during the first 19 and a half minutes of the second period. But the top line finally generated a breakthrough with hard work along the boards, with Bickell collecting a puck jarred loose by Marian Hossa and then circling in front of Quick.
With Jonathan Toews occupying the Kings’ Trevor Lewis, Bickell was alone to slip his seventh goal of the postseason past Quick to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 33.6 seconds left in the second.
Williams opened the scoring by essentially created his own opportunity, forcing the Hawks’ Nick Leddy to cough up the puck as he attempted to skate out of the zone.
Williams then circled near the faceoff circle to the right of Corey Crawford, took a feed from Slava Voynov and fired a wrister past the Hawks’ goaltender for the opening score at the 3:21 mark.
The Hawks didn’t muster too many dangerous scoring chances aside from perhaps their first shift of the game, forced to the walls and failing to get their speed game going up the middle of the ice as they had in Games 1 and 2.
And they were inches away from a two-goal deficit in the final seconds of the first period, when a rocket from the Kings’ Drew Doughty sailed through and scored a direct hit on the left post, kicking back out and into play.
While the Hawks couldn’t find an equalizer, the Kings would take advantage of a deflection in front to build a two-goal edge. Duncan Keith couldn’t clear a puck near the crease and then got tied up in traffic in front, and Voynov then sent a dribbler through — his stick broke on the shot, even — that deflected in for the 2-0 lead at the 6:37 mark.
King punched in an empty netter late in the third for the final margin.
The Kings have recovered from a 2-0 deficit already these playoffs, orchestrating a comeback in the first round against the Blues.
But the situation is different, perhaps just a little more dire, given what’s at stake now.
“We got to win a game,” Kings forward Jarrett Stoll said. ‘That’s what we’ve got to do. I don’t care how we win a game. Find a way to do it again.
“We’ve done it in the past, we know that. But you can draw on those experiences, you got to draw on them the right way to make it happen. We have to make it happen.”