CHICAGO — Goalie Corey Crawford and the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks couldn't pinpoint exactly where Game 2 of the Western Conference finals got away from them.
That was the problem Wednesday in a third-period collapse during a 6-2 loss to the Kings. There were a multitude of choices.
Late into the second period, the champions played to the level worthy of the banner they hung in the United Center last year, overcoming a blown five-on-three man advantage and a replay that confirmed a great scoring chance was instead inches short.
The Blackhawks relied on defenseman Nick Leddy's speed to out-race Kings defenseman Matt Greene on a first-period, power-play breakaway goal, then made it 2-0 when forward Ben Smith penetrated the Kings' defense and scored 1 minute 40 seconds into the second period.
"I really liked how we played for 38 minutes," Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville said. "We did everything we were looking to do."
Yet everything actually changed just after the 32nd minute. That's when Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made a save on a Brent Seabrook shot that would have made the score 3-0.
Kings star Anze Kopitar and Coach Darryl Sutter pointed to that as a pivotal moment, when the dagger for a team that was 7-0 at home in the playoffs instead became a Kings' lifeboat.
"We were still up 2-0," Quenneville said. "It turned on a dime after that. I don't know that I've seen a game all year like that, when we're doing everything right, and then all of a sudden it's a disaster."
Justin Williams' goal with 1:46 left in the second made it 2-1, and then the Blackhawks committed an interference penalty on forward Brandon Bollig and had too many men on the ice in the first three minutes of the third — advantages the Kings turned into two power-play goals. "The best way to kill penalties is not to take them in the first place, and we didn't do that in the third," Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews said.
The Kings' four-goal blitz in a 10:45 stretch was so overwhelming to Crawford that he said this about Tyler Toffoli's rebound goal that gave the Kings a 4-2 lead:
"I didn't see it," Crawford said. "I saw it come off my blocker and go in the air, and then I lost it in the air and I saw it come down. It doesn't matter.
"It's too many ... . We needed a big stop on the second [power play] — and they got another [goal] that kind of took everything out of us."
The question as the series moves to Staples Center for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday is, has it taken everything out of Crawford? "They're going to be better in their building," Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said.
The Kings scored five goals on 12 third-period shots — one came with an empty net.
"You've got to reflect on what just happened and be ready to raise our own level of play," Toews said. "That's a team that wants to win."
Twelve Kings contributed a point Wednesday. Chicago's massive withdrawal featured only six third-period shots on goal.
"They're relentless in a lot of ways," Quenneville said. "They got a break, goal goes in, two power-play goals that were nothing plays ... end up in our net, then we've got to press and open it up. We played right into their hands."