Kings win third straight over listless Blackhawks

Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty (8) celebrates with teammates including Anze Kopitar (11)...

Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty (8) celebrates with teammates including Anze Kopitar (11) after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:59 AM ET

Well, it looks like the only repeating the Chicago Blackhawks will be doing this year is when they have to answer, and re-answer, and re-answer, all those questions about what went wrong in the Western Conference final.

Their quest for back-to-back Stanley Cup championships is all but over, having crashed head on into a brick wall dressed in L.A. black.

In losing for the third straight game, each defeat more humbling and convincing than the last, it's almost impossible to imagine the Hawks escaping the certain fate Darryl Sutter's menacing Kings have planned for them.

They are trailing 3-1 in the series after the 5-2 lesson L.A. taught them Monday at the Staples Center and simply don't look like they can come up with any sort of solution for LA's depth and power.

At least they didn't on Monday. On Monday, they were in shock.

"Yeah, it's not a good position to be in," said Patrick Kane, who has yet to score a goal against the Kings. "I think coming into this series we'd be lying if we thought we'd be in this position, but it happens and we've got no one to blame but ourselves.

"We're the only ones who are going to get ourselves out of it so might as well start with Game 5 in Chicago."

While the Hawks are stunned by how quicky this thing went south on them, L.A. isn't. If you asked the Kings before the series started if they thought they had enough game to go up 3-1 on the defending champions, the answer would have been a resounding yes.

"Yup, we know what we have in here and we know what we're capable of," said defenceman Jake Muzzin. "We believe in our guys and when we play good hockey, it's good enough."

"We're a really good team, too," added winger Tyler Toffoli "We believe in every single guy in this room. We're a confident group. We're not trying to focus on their team, we're trying to focus on ours."

Chicago's focus is on the mess that their playoff drive has become.

They've given up 15 goals in a little over seven periods. Their penalty killing has been thoroughly scorched. Their power play has vanished, along with the Patricks -- Kane and Sharp. The gap between their own goaltender, Corey Crawford, and LA's Jonathan Quick, is growing like a sinkhole.

And, as all these problems mount, the Kings seem to be getting bigger, stronger and more confident by the hour.

"It was a tough situation we put ourselves in," said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. "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.

"We've got to give it everything and nothing less. Credit that team, they're a good team, but we know we've got more."

With Chicago well aware that a loss here would pretty much be the end of their playoff lives, the Kings expected an early and furious push in Game 4.

It never came.

Instead, the crucial swing game was over before it started as the Kings slowed things down in the early going before going to work on Chicago's soft, white underbelly -- Crawford.

They scored on three of their first six shots, none of them especially treacherous (Jake Muzzin at 9:00, Marian Gaborik at 11:13 and Dustin Brown at 15:56) to take a commanding 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.

After Drew Doughty and Brandon Saad traded goals in the second, the Hawks finally launched their desperate surge in the third, making it a little more interesting when Bryan Bickell cut it to 4-2 with 10:31 left to play.

But with Crawford on the bench, Tanner Pearson sealed it with the empty netter.

And now the Kings are one win away from the Stanley Cup final.

"It's nice to have the lead, it's only the second time we've had a lead in a playoff series this year," said Pearson. "And it's nice to know that we only have one game left (to win).

"But we have to come prepared, it's going to be a battle. It's do or die for them. We've been in that position before ourselves, so we know what it takes. We have to be prepared for that."

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@Sun_Tychkowski


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