The Kings are one victory from a few accomplishments.
By defeating the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday in the United Center, the Kings will eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions, pay the Blackhawks back for ousting them from last season’s Western Conference finals and set themselves up for a chance to win their second Cup in three seasons.
All of that is on the table after a 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks in Game 4 of the conference finals at Staples Center on Monday, when the Kings built a 3-0 lead in the first period and were never challenged.
The offense was spread around with Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Marian Gaborik, Jake Muzzin and Tanner Pearson scoring goals. Doughty and Muzzin also had assists.
The Kings have scored 15 goals in the last seven periods against the Blackhawks.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped 22 of 24 shots. His biggest save came with the game scoreless. A loose puck bounced to Marian Hossa, who go off a shot from the low slot. Quick snagged the blast, though.
Then came the scoring deluge.
With Hossa off for goaltender interference, Muzzin took a Doughty pass, zeroed in from the blue line and flicked a wrist shot pass teammate Jeff Carter and goalie Corey Crawford into the upper right corner of the net nine minutes into the game.
Gaborik later perched himself at the goaltender crease, where he was in perfect position to re-direct an Anze Kopitar shot at 11:13 of the first period. It was Gaborik's 10th goal of the playoffs. The Kings had two goals in their first four shots.
Brown finished off a little tic-tac-toe for the Kings’ second power-play goal. Muzzin fired the puck in from the blue line, Justin Williams re-directed it to Brown, who swept it into an open net 15:56 into the period.
The Kings have scored seven power-play goals in their last 17 opportunities.
Doughty gave the Kings a 4-0 lead 12 minutes into the second period. He flipped a shot that deflected off the stick of a Blackhawks player, with the puck toppling end-over-end into the net.
Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell scored goals for the Blackhawks.
Kings 5, Blackhawks 2 (1:02 left in third period)
Tanner Pearson tosses the puck into an empty net to add an exclamation point to this one.
Kings 4, Blackhawks 2 (10:31 left in third period)
The Blackhawks aren’t going gently into that good night.
After Jonathan Toews fanned on shot with an open net, the puck ricocheted to Bryan Bickell, who tucked in a backhander.
Kings 4, Blackhawks 1 (end of second period)
The Kings continue to dominate the Chicago Blackhawks, taking a 4-1 lead into the third period at Staples Center in Game 4 of their best-of-seven playoff series. They are 20 minutes from a three games to one lead in the Western Conference finals.
Drew Doughty padded the Kings' three-goal lead by flipping a shot that went off the stick of a Blackhawks player. The puck went end-over-end into the net for a 4-0 lead 12 minutes 43 seconds into the second period.
Doughty also has an assist in the game.
Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik and Jake Muzzin had goals for the Kings in the first period. The Kings are two for two on the power play, giving them seven goals in their last 17 power-play opportunities
Brandon Saad scored the Blackhawks' goal, tucking in a backhander on a breakaway after a Kings’ turnover.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has stopped 15 of 16 shots.
Kings 4, Blackhawks 1 (5:57 left in second period)
A little parting gift from the Kings?
They turn the puck over in their own zone, setting up Chicago’s Brandon Saad for a backhander that beat goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Kings 4, Blackhawks 0 (7:17 left in second period)
Barring an epic choke tonight, the Kings can wrap up the Western Conference title on Wednesday in Chicago.
Drew Doughty picked up his second point of the game, flipping a shot that deflected off the stick of a Blackhawks player, with the puck toppling end-over-end into the net. Doughty also has an assist.
Kings 3, Blackhawks 0 (end of first period)
Unless something changes radically, the Kings are perched on their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in three seasons.
The Kings buried the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first period of Game 4 on Monday, taking a 3-0 lead in to the dressing room at Staples Center. It left the Kings 40 minutes shy of a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals series.
Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown each scored a goal.
The Kings took advantage of a power play to get the scoring started.
With Marian Hossa off for goaltender interference, Muzzin took a Drew Doughty pass, zeroed in from the blue line and flicked a wrist shot into the upper right corner on the net past goalie Corey Crawford, who was screened by Jeff Carter.
Gaborik, acquired at the trade deadline from Columbus, perched himself at the goaltender crease, where he was in perfect position to re-direct an Anze Kopitar shot. It was Gaborik's 10th goal of the playoffs.
The Kings had their two goals on their only four shots, in part because they were on the defensive early while killing two penalties.
Brown finished off a little tic-tac-toe for the third goal on a second power play. Muzzin fired the puck in from the blue line and Justin Williams re-directed it to Brown, who swept it into an open net.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick had a light period, but did make a big glove save. A loose puck bounced toward Hossa in the low slot but Quick snagged the blast.
Moments later, the Kings began their scoring deluge.
Kings 3, Blackhawks 0 (4:04 left in first period)
If the Kings and Rangers meet in the Stanley Cup Final, Bleecker Street in The Village is the place to eat. It’s certainly looking like there won’t be any Chicago deep dish available in the final.
Dustin Brown finished off a little tic-tac-toe for a three-goal lead.
Jake Muzzin fired the puck in from the blue line. Justin Williams re-directed it to Brown, who swept it into an open net.
Kings 2, Blackhawks 0 (8:47 left in first period)
The Marian Gaborik trade is looking better all the time.
Gaborik, acquired at the trade deadline from Columbus, perched himself at the crease, where he was in perfect position to re-direct a shot by Anze Kopitar. It was Gaborik's 10th goal of the playoffs.
The Kings have two goals on four shots. They also killed off two minor penalties before going on the offensive.
Kings 1, Blackhawks 0 (11:00 left in first period)
The Kings take advantage of a power play.
With Marian Hossa off for goaltender interference, Jake Muzzin took a Drew Doughty pass, zeroed in from the blue line and flicked a wrist shot into the upper right corner on the net.
It was Muzzin’s fifth goal of the playoffs. Doughty and Tyler Toffoli had the assists.
Jeff Carter could have been given an assist since he screened Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who never saw the shot, to perfection.
The “must-win” tag gets attached too often in sports. Still, it would be highly recommended that the Chicago Blackhawks win tonight in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings to fortify their hopes of back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.
The Kings have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into the game at Staples Center.
“We go into every game trying to convince ourselves it's a must win,” Blackhawks captain and center Jonathan Toews said. “In this situation especially. Like I said yesterday, it's pretty obvious we have motivation to win this game.
“It's right there in front of us. We know it's a must win. When you play in a game like this, you don't need anything else. You don't need any inspiration. Guys will be ready to play.”
The Kings, coming off a tough 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Saturday night, can take a commanding 3-1 lead with a victory before heading back to Chicago for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Kings veteran defenseman Drew Doughty knows his club has staved off elimination six times this postseason and it can't relax with a game in hand.
"It’s not the time to give ourselves a pat on the back or anything like that," he said, "but we’ve done a good job getting past the first two and I think our toughest challenge yet is this Chicago Blackhawks team."
The puck will be dropping around 6:15 p.m. PDT.