May 27 2014, 2:18am CDT | by Poch de la Rosa
Alex Kinkopf of the Kings' official website writes three first-period goals were what Los Angeles needed to seize the early momentum and never look back on its way to a 3-1 series lead:
"This time, the Kings struck early.
"Three first-period goals sent the Kings surging, beating Corey Crawford three times on their first six shots on the evening en route to a 5-2 win Monday night at STAPLES Center, taking a 3-1 lead in this seris against Chicago.
"Before they got in tune with their offense, the Kings had to kill off two early penalties, which were called in succession of one another. After nixing Chicago's power play twice in the opening minutes, the Kings flipped the switch and hounded the Blackhawks' penalty kill.
"'Yep, that's clearly the difference in the game,' Darryl Sutter told reporters following the game in regards to the night's special teams effects. 'The first period is clearly special teams. Two in. I think there was four total. That's the difference.'
"After the puck jumbled around atop Chicago's zone as the Kings tried to settle down on their first power play of the evening, Jake Muzzin calmed down the play, and with patience that came with having time and space aplenty, walked in and fired a wrist shot that beat Corey Crawford to the top shelf.
"Muzzin's goal, his second of the series, gave the Kings a 1-0 lead nine minutes into the game. Muzzin now has points in three straight games.
"Just over two minutes later, Anze Kopitar forced Duncan Keith to cough up the puck, then circled the perimeter of Chicago's zone and flung a shot/pass toward Marian Gaborik who was crashing the Blackhawks' net. Gaborik tipped home Kopitar's feed for his 10th goal of the postseason, giving the Kings a 2-0 lead 11:13 into the game.
"Gaborik's goal set a new personal record for playoff goals scored in a single season for the veteran forward. Gaborki's 10th of this playoffs eclipses the nine he scored with the Minnesota Wild during the 2003 postseason."
The Kings continued to build on their momentum, scoring another goal courtesy of defenseman Drew Doughty off an assist from Kopitar at the 12:43 mark of the second period, per The Los Angeles Daily News' Elliott Teaford.
Teaford then narrates how the rest of the game's scoring went as well as a Kings defenseman which has held Chicago's Patrick Kane without a goal through the first four games of the series.
"Doughty predicted a low-scoring game after the Kings' morning skate. He was wrong about that and his expectation that the Kings would see a different Kane in Game 4. Kane is scoreless in four games after recording six goals and four assists in the first two rounds.
"Brandon Saad gave the Blackhawks a jolt with a goal that cut the Kings' lead to 4-1 at 14:03 of the second period. Bryan Bickell capped a goal-mouth scramble to trim it to 4-2 at 9:29 of the third. The Blackhawks' comeback stalled and Tanner Pearson sealed the deal with an empty-net goal.
"'It's a tough position we're in now,' Kane said, who had 29 goals and 40 assists during the regular season. 'But at the same time we still feel good about our team here and we al know we've done it before. We've got to have that confidence and try to win the next game.'"
Kopitar has proven to be the difference for the Kings this postseason, writes Teaford's colleague, Jill Painter.
"But Kopitar, the Kings' center on the top line, is playing like an MVP for the Kings this postseason.
"The most valuable part of these Kings has been that Kopitar has been a machine on offense.
"Imagine where they would be without him.
"Kopitar assisted on two of the Kings' four goals this season. That he's done all this against an opponent's top lines makes it that much more impressive. He leads the NHL in postseason points and assists (17).
"He outplayed Joe Thornton in a first-round series against (the) San Jose (Sharks). He outplayed Ryan Getzlaf in the Western Conference semifinals against the (Anaheim) Ducks. The Kings won both series in seven games.
"When the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, Kopitar had eight playoff goals and 12 assists for 20 points through 20 games. He's arguably been more impactful."
Game 5 will be on Wednesday, May 28, at the United Center in Chicago with an 8:00 p.m. EDT face-off.
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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