The most obvious showcases of the Kings' passion to recapture the Stanley Cup that was won by the Chicago Blackhawks last year have been in special teams.
Monday night, in shoving Chicago to the brink of elimination with a 5-2 victory at Staples Center, the Kings scored two power-play goals and blanked the Blackhawks in three penalty-kill situations.
Against the NHL's most potent regular-season scoring team, the Kings have killed 11 of 13 penalties this series to take a three-games-to-one lead as the Western Conference finals moves to Chicago for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
"It's definitely an intense battle, but we're confident in our rotation, in what we're supposed to do, and we have one of the best goalies in the game back there if something breaks down," said Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin.
That's what happened right away Monday, when the Kings killed off an Anze Kopitar hooking penalty thanks to one of goaltender Jonathan Quick's 22 saves, on Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa.
Then, after Muzzin provided a slight push on Hossa to help clinch Hossa's goalie-interference penalty, the defenseman scored the game's opening goal by launching a shot that beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford while screened by 6-foot-4 Kings center Jeff Carter.
"[Carter's] a big body," Muzzin said. "We've talked about keeping the power play simple. Get traffic, and you'll get shots through. I looked up and I didn't see the goalie. He's down, looking for a lane and I'm looking for net. Great job by Jeff not jumping in the way.
"That got the ball rolling for us. Capitalizing on those power plays set us up for the rest of the game."
After ranking 27th in the NHL during the regular season on power-play scoring effectiveness with 15.1% (43-284), the Kings are now functioning at a 27% clip (16 for 60) that's the best among the four remaining teams.
"We're working harder to get pucks through, making it simpler to get pucks to the net instead of tic-tac-toe [passing] all the time," Muzzin said.
Four times now in the postseason, the Kings have scored at least two power-play goals in a game, and they were once riding a six-game streak with a man-advantage goal.
The second one Monday gave them a 3-0 lead with 4:04 left in the first period. Muzzin passed to Justin Williams, who whipped the puck toward the net with Kings captain Dustin Brown redirecting it past Crawford.
"Our systems are the same, our breakouts are the same, we're just executing," Brown said. "The power plays … were a result of keeping pucks alive, getting people around the net. It's all about being hard on the puck. I know, as a [penalty killer], when you can't clear it … it's tough on you."
Muzzin and fellow defenseman Drew Doughty said that same momentum-changing benefit is at play on the penalty kill.
Chicago ranked 10th in the NHL in power-play effectiveness during the regular season.
Quick saw a blast by defenseman Duncan Keith blocked by a teammate on the Blackhawks' final power play, and he shrugged off antagonism by Chicago's Patrick Sharp at the net just as he did a question about the difficulty of keeping the high-powered defending champions so silent with an extra man.
"Just trying to focus one shift at a time, it's a two-minute game you're trying to play," Quick said. "I don't know we're doing anything different. … These are the kind of teams you're going to play this time of year."
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