Kings come up big at end against Chicago Blackhawks
Jeff Carter stepped up and openly acknowledged the obvious after the All-Star break ended. Quite simply, he said that the struggling Kings were “running out of games.”
On Wednesday, the Kings center did something about it, transferring words to action in a riveting game between two familiar rivals. Carter played one of his best games of the season, scoring twice and adding an assist on the tying goal as the Kings defeated the Blackhawks, 4-3, at Staples Center.
Three times the Kings fell behind by a goal.
Three times, they fought back.
They scored twice in the final 6:11. Forward Tyler Toffoli, who missed six games because of mononucleosis, scored and added an assist in his return.
Toffoli’s goal, his 13th of the season, tied it, 3-3, at 13:49 of the third period, beating Chicago goalie Corey Crawford with a quick release from the slot.
The winner came with 3:37 left, via defenseman Jake Muzzin’s shot from the blue line. It appeared to go in past Crawford by glancing off Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
The lone assist went to Kings center Anze Kopitar, who won a faceoff to help set it up.
Toffoli talked about the mental toughness of a veteran team.
“We know, our group of guys, we’ve been saying all year to you guys and to ourselves…tonight was a night where we wanted to prove to ourselves that we can win big games,” he said.
“And we did it tonight.”
Toffoli said he felt rusty in his first game back. Imagine how it will go when the rust disappears.
Until late in the third, there were more sights of a season slipping away. It could have been another one-goal defeat until the Kings reached back in their memory bank from seasons past.
The presence of the Blackhawks helped, and then some.
“We obviously enjoy playing the Blackhawks every time we play them,” Carter said. “It’s an intense, exciting game. As a player in the room, if you can’t get up to play them, there’s something wrong with you.
“We enjoy it. It was a big battle for us and hopefully we can keep building on this and get some points.”
This was the second multi-goal performance for Carter this season and the Kings are 10-0-0 this season when he has a multi-point showing.
Chicago, which lost to the Kings in the Western Conference finals last June, had defeated the Kings here in November. There is one regular-season game left between the teams.
The Kings took advantage of the chance to pick up some ground and are one point out of a playoff spot, trailing the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference spot. They’ve won only three times in 2015 and this was their first victory since Jan. 12 against Toronto.
Chicago had taken a 3-2 lead early in the third period, at 2:25, when the Blackhawks capitalized on a turnover by Jordan Nolan. Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw finished off the play, beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with a wrist shot from the right circle.
Games between the Kings and the Blackhawks are often highly entertaining affairs and Wednesday hit another level by the third period. The intensity was evident afterward too.
Said Crawford, the Blackhawks’ goalie: “It’s frustrating. I thought we played a good game. They got two quick ones at the end. I guess everyone can pretty much tell how we feel about that one so there’s no point in explaining it.
“I’m not going to talk about that because I’m probably going to get fined or something, so move on to another question.”
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa
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