LOS ANGELES — The urgency was there, at least through the first 20 minutes. Starting with the captain Jonathan Toews, it was evident that the Blackhawks heeded the wake-up call they got through the latter stages of Game 2.
Then it was gone. Maybe it was the Los Angeles Kings exerting their will. Maybe it was the Blackhawks not capitalizing on several power-play opportunities or their mistakes on which the Kings converted. Whatever the issue, or issues, the Blackhawks suffered the same fate for the second consecutive game.
Jonathan Toews scored twice, but Jeff Carter and the Kings came back on them once again, this time for a 4-3 triumph in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. The Kings lead the series, 2-1, entering Game 4 on Monday at Staples Center.
Carter had a goal and an assist, as he and linemates Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli continue to give the Blackhawks fits. Drew Doughty scored the game-winning goal just after the Kings’ final power play of the night expired.
The Blackhawks failed to win the opening road game of a postseason series once again. Saturday’s game, however, was about other troubling trends. The Blackhawks’ power-play struggles continued. Their penalty kill, so good through the first two rounds, has few answers against the Kings’ power play. Mistakes, lapses, not enough players bringing enough, pick a category: The Blackhawks aren’t getting the necessary push.
“They want it really bad. They’re playing hard. Even when they have leads against us, it seems like they get even better,” Toews said about the Kings. “For us, it’s just a matter of continuing the effort we started with in the first period, keep doing the things we’re doing. We’re really close.”
The Blackhawks were closer on the scoreboard in the third period on Saturday than they were in Game 2, no doubt, and Toews was a big reason why. The Blackhawks got the start they wanted, for the most part, with Toews scoring a short-handed goal for a quick 1-0 advantage. Despite allowing a Slava Voynov goal on that same power play — 50 seconds after Toews’ goal — the Blackhawks still finished the first on top. Toews’ second score of the game came on a rebound off a Michal Rozsival shot.
The Kings did a lot with a little in the second period, scoring two goals on just four shots. Trailing 3-2 entering the final frame, the Blackhawks’ urgency was absent. The Kings outshot them, 18-7, over the final 20 minutes. Patrick Sharp scored, but that came with just three seconds remaining in regulation.
“They were doing a good job of chipping pucks out, but I thought 5-on-5 we were right there, for the most part,” Duncan Keith said. “We may have felt, 5-on-5, we had more possession overall, but we just took penalties.”
[WATCH: Toews: 'No time to get discouraged']
Right now, the Kings are getting more through all four of their lines than the Blackhawks are. Asked if things needed to change, be it lines or personnel, coach Joel Quenneville didn’t sound too worried about the current makeup.
“We look at basically nine periods, seven were pretty good, pretty effective, as far as chances and generating what we’re looking to do,” he said. “They’ve had two big third periods on us, and that’s the difference (in) being down 2-1. We’ll look at the lines, but I don’t know if we have to shake them up too much.”
Yes, the Blackhawks have been down in series before, be it earlier this postseason to St. Louis or last year vs. the Detroit Red Wings. Right now, however, this deficit has a different feel to it. The Blackhawks need to find the urgency and the discipline, fast.
“We need to be the best we possibly can be. We’ve shown we can do that in the past. The tougher the situation, we’re going to come to play,” Toews said. “The motivation is right there in front of us now. There’s nothing left to think about: Just go out there and play and give everything you’ve got.”