Kings' special teams are living up to their name
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown always measures his words in a way that makes it sound like he's fatigued, and that might have actually been the case immediately after Game 3 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday.
The Kings had just put on a penalty-killing clinic in holding the Chicago Blackhawks scoreless in eight minutes of power-play time, and Los Angeles continued its offensive outburst with another power-play goal and a second goal scored two seconds after its final extra-man opportunity expired. Each was vital in the 4-3 win at Staples Center that gave the Kings a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series that continues Monday at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Brown, one of the Kings' penalty-killers, seemed almost out of breath.
"I thought our penalty kill was very good, but we were on the ice way too much," Brown said. "The power play gets a big goal right after a shorthanded goal. I thought our power play gained us momentum. They were both good, but from a PK standpoint, we have to stop taking so many penalties.
Brown then sighed and said, "Because it's hard work."
That was a common refrain among the Kings, who have been shorthanded an NHL-leading 66 times in 17 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not much more can be asked of their penalty killing unit, which held Chicago to one shot each on three of its four power plays. The Blackhawks could not get clean entries, nor set up properly in the Kings' zone.
"Our power play tonight really didn't help us," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought that was the difference in the game. We lose momentum. We generated enough in that second period to put ourselves in a good spot. We not only didn't generate much, but we lost momentum off those power plays."
It's an unusual position for Chicago, which ranked 10th on the power play in the regular season. Los Angeles ranked 27th, but it's been a different story in the postseason with a 24.6 percent success rate, best among the four remaining teams.
Los Angeles went 1 for 3 in Game 3 and scored another goal two seconds after a penalty expired. Both came at important points of the game.
After Chicago captain Jonathan Toews seemed to set the tone for the Blackhawks with a shorthanded goal, the Kings got set up on the same power play and defenseman Slava Voynov ripped a pass from Jeff Carter inside the left post at 6:16 of the first period to tie it 1-1.
"It's kind of a dagger when you're out there on the power play … and they get a shorthanded one, it hurts a little bit," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "To have that character to come back and capitalize still on that same power play -- that just shifted the momentum right down to our side. Power plays are huge. You don't get many in the playoffs. They call it pretty tight. I thought the power play stepped up tonight, and the PK was great as well."
Chicago still possesses the second-best penalty killing unit in the playoffs at 87.3 percent. But Los Angeles has had a different offensive dynamic with the addition of Marian Gaborik and the pairing of highly effective young players Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli with veteran center Carter.
Los Angeles has outscored opponents 48-28 in the past 14 games, and coach Darryl Sutter shed some light by regurgitating his keep-it-simple philosophy as to what's been working on the power play.
"I think we use lots of different guys and tried to use different looks and make sure that you're not passing the puck into the net," Sutter said. "You're shooting it in there. It sounds sort of silly, but screens, tips, rebounds, are still the best way to score goals."
Author: Curtis Zupke | NHL.com Correspondent