Jonathan Toews let it be known before the puck dropped that his Chicago Blackhawks needed to play ticked off Saturday at Staples Center, then backed his words with two first-period goals.
If more of his teammates don't join his cause, however, more setbacks such as the Blackhawks' 4-3 loss to the Kings that left the defending Stanley Cup champions trailing, two games to one, in the Western Conference finals seem inevitable.
"We all want to win; 'Taser' is our captain and led the way, but we need everybody if we're going to beat this team," said Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith. "It's up to the rest of us to follow that."
The Blackhawks were denied on 24 of the other 26 shots against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick before a goal with an empty net came with five seconds remaining in the game.
Chicago also went scoreless on four power-play opportunities.
The Kings kept Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (69 regular-season points) scoreless on three shots. Chicago forward Marian Hossa (13 playoff points) was limited to a secondary assist with three shots blocked. And the visitors' leading scorer, Patrick Sharp, scored the final goal after five of his other shots were either blocked or missed.
"We've got to keep pushing for the next level, that's what it's going to take to beat these guys," Toews said. "We had our chances [on the power play], just couldn't find a way to put one in."
Toews did his best to set the tone, scoring the game's opening goal by taking a puck from Kings forward Justin Williams that Toews lost on a faceoff, racing toward Quick on a short-handed breakaway and beating the goalie to his left 5 minutes 26 seconds into the game.
Before the game, Toews told reporters his team was "not at all" deflated by Quick's memorable second-period save on Brent Seabrook in Game 2 that changed the course of the Kings' 6-2 victory in Chicago.
"We'll just keep putting pucks on him and we feel eventually they'll go in," Toews said.
With 6:41 left in the first, Toews again wouldn't be denied, pushing off Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, controlling a teammate's pass with his right skate and scoring for a 2-1 lead.
The Kings surged ahead by keeping Toews without at shot in the final two periods.
Into that void marched no one.
"We just couldn't quite keep control," Toews said, disagreeing with the notion — perhaps for the sake of team unity — that his teammates didn't match his energy or desire.
Late in the third, Toews tried to act as a decoy, looking for an open teammate, but a pass to Keith led to one of 16 blocked shots by the Kings.
"Obviously, we could've been better," said Chicago center Michal Handzus. "You've got to go out and do it."
The Blackhawks were down in the first-round series against St. Louis and won, were tied with Minnesota after four games in the second round and won in six games.
Now, they need a victory in Los Angeles, and they're 2-5 on the road this postseason.
"We know we can [get] ourselves out of a tough situation," Toews said. "The motivation is right in front of us. There's nothing left to think about but give it all you've got. Next one is a big one … a must-win."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times