LOS ANGELES — The penalty total wasn’t high. It wasn’t last game, either. The price paid for most of them, however, has been.
The Blackhawks know the risks of putting the Los Angeles Kings on their power play. They were reminded of that again on Monday night.
Jake Muzzin and Dustin Brown scored power-play goals, with Brown’s eventually being the game-winner, as the Kings beat the Blackhawks 5-2 in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. The Kings take a 3-1 series edge over the Blackhawks, who will host Game 5 at the United Center on Wednesday night.
The Kings continue to clobber the Blackhawks offensively. They’ve now scored 14 goals on them over the past seven periods, with five of those goals coming on the power play. The Blackhawks’ defense is hemorrhaging, and it’s been glaringly giving on the penalty kill.
“We took some penalties and we made some mistakes, couldn’t kill them off. It’s an uphill battle after that,” Jonathan Toews said. “It wasn’t for lack of trying or a lack of effort. The guys played really well at times. We had them in their zone. I think when you give up three goals in a period, especially the first period, to a team like that, it gives them energy, gives them confidence in their own building. So we know we can’t do that.”
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The Blackhawks’ power play didn’t help again, either. It sputtered on its first opportunity and was gaining some traction on the second before Marian Hossa was whistled for goaltending interference. And even though that first Kings' power play was an abbreviated one, it didn’t matter. Muzzin was alone in the slot, with Jeff Carter providing the screen, to put the Kings up 1-0. After Marian Gaborik scored an even-strength goal, a bad Patrick Sharp roughing penalty put the Kings on the power play once again. Brown, wide open with Corey Crawford pulled in the other direction, easily made it 3-0.
“The first one we could’ve gone out to (Muzzin) coming up the gut, kind of comparable to the last game. But they’re shooting and they’re going in,” coach Joel Quenneville said of the Kings’ advantage. “Their third goal, that second power play goal, we have to be better than that.”
“It just seems that they’re scoring different goals in different ways on their power play,” Keith said. “We can try to get clears when we have the puck, just (do) all the little things we talk about. Just settle down a little bit out there we’ll be fine.”
The Blackhawks did settle down after that first period but they didn’t generate enough on the other end. Brandon Saad scored late in the second period and Bryan Bickell scored midway through the third to cut it to 4-2. Tanner Pearson capped it for the Kings, however, with an empty-net goal.
“When you get down 3-0 it’s tough to come back on the road,” said Patrick Kane, who was back with Toews on the Blackhawks’ top line on Monday. “After that, we were obviously pressing and you’re trying to generate as much as you can. I thought we had some chances to get ourselves back in the game. It didn’t work out that way but we’re still a confident group in here.”
That’s good the Blackhawks are still confident, because they’re going to need that. What they also need are stops, be it on 5-on-5 or on that penalty kill. They’re not getting them. The cause isn’t lost, but it is looking shaky.
“We just have to have execute, you have to make things happen. There are no excuses,” Toews said. “It’s frustrating to think about the little things we could have changed to put ourselves in a better situation in the series, but we’re not going to stop working, we’re not going to stop trying. It’s as simple as that.”