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Kings maintain home-ice dominance, cut series deficit

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings are back at home, and everything is right again for the defending Stanley Cup champions -- for now, anyway.

Down two games to none to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals, the Kings responded with a 3-1 win Tuesday in Game 3 at Staples Center.

And in the process, they climbed back into the series.

"I'd certainly say it was our strongest 60 (minutes) in the series so far," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "I don't think that would surprise anybody. It was good to cut the series in half."

Game 4 is Thursday at Staples Center, with the Kings looking to even the series. Los Angeles is 8-0 at home in the postseason.

"We lost the game. We're not happy with the result," Chicago center Jonathan Toews said. "We will learn from it and do whatever we have to do in the next one. They played with more energy. They were excited to be home. They're confident in this building, and they showed that tonight."

Justin Williams got it started for the Kings with a first-period goal past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford 3:21 into the game.

"He's been incredible for us, all playoffs long and whenever we need a big goal he's always there to step up," Kings center Tyler Toffoli said. "You can't say enough good things about him, the way he's playing right now and how good of a leader he is."

The quick start was essential for the Kings, who were essentially knocked out in the first period in Game 2, surrendering two goals to rattle Jonathan Quick -- who was eventually chased in the second period after giving up two more.

Los Angeles also needed a better defensive effort, which it provided by killing off two power plays and keeping Quick clean by allowing just seven shots on goal in the first period.

"We had guys, every line physical, finishing checks. We got some hits on their key guys, which we didn't get a lot of in previous games," Kings winger Dustin Brown said. "It's not one or two guys, it's guys on every line, every 'D' pair. It's a matter of understanding why that makes us successful and repeating it."

The Kings pushed the lead to 2-0 when Slava Voynov snuck a shot through two sets of legs and the stick of Crawford seven minutes into the second period.

However, an unassisted goal by Bryan Bickell, who beat Quick with 34 seconds left in the period, made it 2-1 and completely changed the complexion of the game.

It was a devastating goal surrendered by the Kings, who allowed just two shots previously in the period and seemed in total control.

Los Angeles hold on, though, thanks to a perfectly defended third period -- and Dwight King's empty-net goal with 27.3 seconds remaining.

"We didn't deserve whatever came out of those first two periods," Bickell said. "They had the spark being at home. They have been a good home team this year in the playoffs. We just need to match it coming into the game, but unfortunately we didn't, but we need to be ready for Game 4. ...

"We had the momentum going into the third. I thought we played good hockey, but we just need to be better than that."

Scuderi said, "We didn't want to sit back. Everybody can fall into the trap, once you have a lead, especially in the third period, of sitting back. But with the players they have, it's not going to be a winning strategy. I think we were able to play in their zone, at least it was a 50-50 draw maybe, I don't have the exact statistics, but at least we were able to play some time in their end and not overwork our team's defense."

Quick wound up making 19 saves. Crawford stopped 25 shots.

NOTES: Los Angeles C Mike Richards missed his second consecutive game. Richards is suffering from an upper-body injury, according to the Kings, although it's suspected he suffered a concussion in Game 1. Richards, the Kings' leading scorer in the playoffs, is still a question mark for Game 4. "He's done a little bit every day. It's the same. No progress," coach Darryl Sutter said. "If it was just about Mike Richards, if Mike Richards makes the decision, Mike Richards is playing tonight. You've got guys who don't want to play, and you've got guys who do want to play. Mike Richards wants to play." ... With the early start (6 p.m. PDT) for Game 3, the Blackhawks skipped their typical morning skate. Coupled with a travel day Monday, they'd essentially gone 48 hours without ice time. Considering the grueling regular season they went through and playing on back-to-back days to open the Western Conference finals, the players welcomed the break. "Personally I kind of like it," Chicago D Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "It's nice. It's been a lot of hockey here. Back-to-back and travel days. Just try to be mentally ready when the puck drops, that's what it's all about at this point."
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