Sports Hockey

NHL PLAYOFFS

Kings bounce back to even conference final 0

By Robert Tychkowski, Edmonton Sun

Los Angeles Kings defenceman Jake Muzzin (middle) celebrates with teammates Marian Gaborik (12) and Alec Martinez after scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game 2of the Western Conference final at United Center. (Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports)

Los Angeles Kings defenceman Jake Muzzin (middle) celebrates with teammates Marian Gaborik (12) and Alec Martinez after scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game 2of the Western Conference final at United Center. (Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports)

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CHICAGO - 

The Los Angeles Kings don’t have to call the Chicago Blackhawks their daddy anymore.

After two years worth of humbling and frustrating results, they finally figured out a way to shoot down their nemesis.

And they did it in shocking and spectacular fashion, roaring back from a 2-0 deficit with six straight goals in the final 21:46 to post a 6-2 victory, even their Western Conference playoff series 1-1 and send the entire city of Chicago into stunned silence.

“We just don’t give up, we have a lot of heart, we have a lot of will,” said Kings defenceman Drew Doughty. “As a team, we have such great chemistry on and off the ice that when we get put in those positions, we believe in every single one of each other.

“We believe we can come back, we believe we can win the game. I think tonight we showed that.”

They showed it right down Chicago’s throat.

“You never quit, you can’t quit,” said L.A. centre Jarret Stoll.

“Crazy things happen in sports, you never quit until it’s over. And we have the right guys in here to keep pushing and pushing.

“We got some fortunate bounces, some saves, some power plays that helped and we came out on top.”

The win represents a major breakthrough for a Kings team that had lost 10 of its previous 12 games to the Blackhawks — 0-4 during the regular season and playoffs this year, 1-4 in last year’s conference final and 1-2 last season.

There was enough evidence on the table to make a pretty strong argument that Chicago was simply better, that the Kings didn’t have an answer.

And when the Hawks were 1:46 away from taking a 2-0 lead into the second intermission, the game, if not the series, looked pretty close to over.

But the Kings have shown a remarkable ability to get up off the canvas and fight their way out of trouble in these playoffs, overcoming a 3-0 series deficit in Round 1 against San Jose and staving off elimination in Games 6 and 7 against the Ducks.

So being a couple of goals down, and facing the prospect of going down 2-0 in the series, wasn’t freaking anyone out.

“I’ve said it over and over, these guys don’t like to lose,” said Kings newcomer Tanner Pearson. “And I think it just translates throughout the whole team.”

The Hawks, on the other hand … they freaked out.

The defending Stanley Cup champions, who came into the game with a perfect 7-0 home record, turned in an epic and uncharacteristic collapse.

“It’s disappointing because we just didn’t find a way to keep playing the way we did in the first and second,” sighed captain Jonathan Toews.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t bring the effort the same way. Guess we got what we deserved.”

Bad penalties, mental breakdowns, average goaltending, all of it combined to turn this series on its ear.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” said Chicago veteran Patrick Sharp. “We got off to a good start through 40 minutes. We were skating well and drew a few penalties and then, obviously, things unravelled during the third.”

It actually began late in the second, when the Kings needed something, anything, to go their way on a night when the Hawks were in full flight.

They got it when a centering pass from Mike Richards hit Justin Williams on the skate and dribbled through Corey Crawford at 18:14. It was ugly, it was lucky and it changed the game.

“I think that goal really got us going,” said Jeff Carter, who scored three times in the third period. “You start to feel good about yourself, start to feel a little better.”

“We were just adamant in here about coming out, putting on the pressure, getting a goal early, and we did that,” added Doughty.

Sure enough, cue the comeback. Carter tied it on the power play at 1:37. Jake Muzzin gave L.A. its first lead of the series at 4:04. Tyler Toffoli made it 4-2 at 8:59. Carter made it 5-2 at 14:46 and 6-2 with an empty netter.

“It’s a tough building to win in,” said Carter. “They were undefeated in the playoffs, so it’s a good confidence builder for us. Getting a split in this building is really good.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@Sun_Tychkowski

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