The Chicago Blackhawks got out to a good start, with captain Jonathan Toews burying a couple of first-period goals, but it was all Los Angeles after that, and the Kings took Game Three by a 4-3 score, taking a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Final.
Los Angeles' attack was paced by Jeff Carter, who had a goal and two assists, giving him 19 points in 17 playoff games, one behind teammate Anze Kopitar for the league lead.
Carter, along with rookie linemates Tanner Pearson (1 A in Game Three) and Tyler Toffoli (1 G in Game Three), has been a difference-maker in the series. While the Blackhawkw aren't shy about playing Toews' line head-to-head against Kopitar's line, the Kings are getting the better of the other matchups, and none moreso than when Carter, Pearson and Toffoli take the ice. Through three games against Chicago, Carter has eight points (4 G, 4 A) overall and has been on for 46 shot attempts for and 30 against (60.5%) during 5-on-5 play.
It's not only the Carter line getting it done for the Kings though. D Drew Doughty has been on top of his game, with a goal and an assist while playing a game-high 28:32 in Game Three giving him a dozen points in the postseason, tied with Montreal's P.K. Subban for the lead among defencemen.
Chicago is getting the best of the top line matchup, as Toews, Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa had strong possession games in Game Three, with Hossa leading the way, with 76% of the even-strength shot attempts when he was on the ice.
While the final score was close, the Blackhawks didn't really threaten once the Kings had the lead. Los Angeles controlled play in the third period, outshooting Chicago 18-7, and the Blackhawks managed to break through for a goal (by Patrick Sharp, his first point since Game Five vs. Minnesota) with four seconds remaining to make the final margin close.
Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane had been held off the scoresheet in the series, which poses a real problem for the Blackhawks and further illustrates the advantage that the Kings are gaining through the production of Carter's line.
One challenge for the Blackhawks is that they are running Michal Handzus between Kane and Sharp on the second line and that unit was under 31% in possession terms in Game Three and, by the third period, Handzus was replaced by Ben Smith in that role.
Andrew Shaw returned to the Blackhawks lineup and played 12:28. He didn't have any shots on goal, but tied Bickell with a game-high six hits.
This has already been a hard-fought series, but the Blackhawks are now facing a difficult situation, down two games to one, with Game Four in Los Angeles. If the Blackhawks are going to get back to even, they will need the supporting cast to contribute more.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.