LOS ANGELES – Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and captain Dustin Brown scored in a dominant first period, and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference final series.
Muzzin and Drew Doughty each had a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Quick made 22 saves as the Kings moved to the brink of their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in three seasons with their third straight victory over the defending champion Blackhawks.
Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell scored and Corey Crawford stopped 16 shots for the Blackhawks, who didn’t get rolling until they trailed 4-0 late in the second period.
One year after Los Angeles lost the conference finals in five games to Chicago, the Kings have their own chance to close it out in five.
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Game 5 is Wednesday in Chicago.
Los Angeles forward Justin Williams said, “Stanley Cup championship teams like Chicago and us, we’ve been through a lot. We’ve persevered through a lot, and they’re down 3-1. We’re trying to squash them, and they’re trying to get some life.”
Tanner Pearson added an empty-net goal for the Kings, who have been to the Stanley Cup Final twice in franchise history, winning their lone title in 2012.
Two days after the Kings gritted out a 4-3 victory over Chicago in Game 3, they won again at Staples Center by scoring three goals on six shots in the first 16 minutes, capping an incredible three-game offensive performance by the lowest-scoring team to make the NHL postseason this year.
After trailing 2-0 late in the second period of Game 2, Los Angeles scored 13 goals in less than 100 minutes of play. After Muzzin scored on a power play and Gaborik added his 10th goal of the postseason, Brown banged a puck into a vacant net for a 3-0 lead in Game 4, setting off multiple standing ovations from delirious fans.
The Blackhawks changed their lineup after two poor offensive performances, beginning Game 4 with captain Jonathan Toews centering Bickell and Patrick Kane, who doesn’t have a goal in the series.
Last year, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville teamed Toews with Kane — the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner — when his team fell into a 3-1 series hole against Detroit in the second round. The Blackhawks escaped that deficit on the way to their second Stanley Cup title in four years, but the Kings present a different postseason challenge.
“I don’t think we played that poorly,” Toews said. “We made some mistakes, and their confidence snowballed on us.
“Next thing you know, it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how many shifts you spend in their zone. If the bounces aren’t going your way, it’s tough to get back in a game like this.”
• After missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years, the Washington Capitals have hired former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz.
Trotz, 51, was the Predators’ coach for 15 seasons and had a 557-479-160 record before being dropped from the job in April. In Washington, he takes over for Adam Oates, who was fired last month with a season left on his three-year deal.
Washington promoted Brian MacLellan, 55, from assistant general manager to general manager and senior vice president. He replaces George McPhee, whose contract was not renewed after 17 seasons as the GM.