The Los Angeles Kings don't appear interested in heading to a Game 7 this time around.
Darryl Sutter's team got goals from Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown in the first period Monday night before holding on for a 5-2 win and a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Strange but true: Kings lost their first 3 games of these playoffs. LA is now one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 27, 2014
It was actually the 'Hawks who enjoyed the edge in shots on goal, 24-21, but Jonathan Quick recorded 22 saves and the Kings once again benefited from the one-man advantage, scoring two power-play goals to take one step closer to the Stanley Cup finals.
Jonathan Quick becomes 6th goalie in NHL history to win 36 postseason games over 3-year stretch. (via @EliasSports)— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 27, 2014
In addition to the dominance of L.A.'s second line, a major theme throughout this series has been the team's power play. The Kings converted three of seven opportunities en route to big wins in Games 2 and 3.
Prior to Monday's contest, the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith, via CSN's Tracey Myers, explained the best way to counteract the problem:
Duncan Keith: "They have a lot of good players out there. We might want to stay out of the box. No other way to put it, really." #Blackhawks— Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) May 25, 2014
Well, mission not accomplished.
Chicago went to the box twice in the opening period Monday, resulting in two Kings goals. And it took a total of 62 seconds.
The first, 10 seconds into an abbreviated power play following Marian Hossa's goalkeeper interference, came from Muzzin, who wristed one in from straight in front of Corey Crawford.
As the Los Angeles News Group's Elliott Teaford noted, it was once again Jeff Carter of "That 70's Line" at the center of the success:
Not on the sheet, but Jeff Carter screened Corey Crawford on the Muzzin goal. Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli credited with the helpers.— Elliott Teaford (@ElliottTeaford) May 27, 2014
After Gaborik made it 2-0 just minutes later, the Kings went back on the power play thanks to a roughing penalty from Patrick Sharp. That set up the early candidate for goal of the game, as Brown scored 52 seconds into the power play following a series of surgical passes.
Take a look, courtesy of the team's official Twitter feed:
Goal #3. WATCH: http://t.co/poGXmWDUrY— LA Kings (@LAKings) May 27, 2014
At the end of the first period, L.A. had just one more shot on goal than Chicago, but it resulted in three more goals. At that point, the Edmonton Sun's Rob Tychkowski gave an update on the Kings' ridiculously efficient power play:
Kings power play is running at 29.1% (16-for-55) since Game 3 against the Sharks in Round 1. Wow— Rob Tychkowski (@Sun_Tychkowski) May 27, 2014
The Blackhawks were able to stop the bleeding—somewhat—with two penalty kills in the second period, but it made no difference on the scoreboard, as Drew Doughty and Brandon Saad exchanged goals to make it 4-1.
Becoming the aggressor in the third period, though, the Blackhawks were able to make things interesting. They fired off six of the first seven shots (and eight of 13 in the period), and Bryan Bickell eventually slotted home a rebound after a ridiculous stick save by Doughty.
It was far too little, too late, however, and the Kings settled down before Tanner Pearson ultimately delivered the dagger with a late empty-net goal.
Much like the New York Rangers out East, the Kings suddenly look unstoppable after going to two straight Game 7's in the first two rounds. Quick led the way to the Stanley Cup two years ago, but this time around, it's an efficient offense taking advantage of every Chicago mistake.
Sportsnet's Mark Spector and ESPN's Wayne Drehs summed it up:
Kings were dead last in scoring among 16 playoff teams. Today, they lead in playoff goals scored. Add offence, this team is verrrry good.— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) May 27, 2014
Kings look bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, sharper ... Anything else?— Wayne Drehs (@espnWD) May 27, 2014
It won't make much difference what Quick does as long as the Kings average 5.3 goals per game, as they've now done in their last three wins.
Who will win Game 5?
Chicago returns home for Game 5 on Wednesday, which will help spark some hope, but the Kings are suddenly showing zero weaknesses.
It's tough to beat that.