Chicago Blackhawks on brink of dethroning LA Kings
Chicago battle back to secure vital victory after trailing twice against Los Angeles
The Chicago Blackhawks pushed Stanley Cup champions the Los Angeles Kings to the brink of elimination from the Western Conference finals with a thrilling 3-2 victory in game four.
Top-seeded Chicago twice trailed in a high-energy encounter of hard hits at Staples Center before taking the lead for good when right wing Marian Hossa scored with a slapshot early in the third period.
The Kings desperately tried to counter but the Blackhawks defence held firm, and they withstood a late powerplay before taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Fifth-seeded Los Angeles, who won Tuesday's game three 3-1, succumbed to their first play-off loss on home ice this season, ending a run of 15 consecutive wins at Staples Center dating back to March 23.
"It's always fun when you win. It's a huge difference [between] 2-2 coming home and 3-1," Slovakian Hossa said. "We battled, found a way to score goals. We are glad we could win in this building.
"We're not finished yet and we have to win one more, which won't be easy. We can enjoy this victory for now but we'll be sure we're ready at home."
Goaltender Jonathan Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during last season's play-offs, made 25 saves for Los Angeles while Corey Crawford stopped 19 shots for Chicago.
The series shifts back to Chicago for game five today with game six, if needed, back in Los Angeles on Monday.
"It was a tough one to lose tonight but we knew we were going to have to win at least one in their rink so we're looking forward to the next challenge," Kings defenceman Drew Doughty said.
"It's a big game Saturday night and it's a must-win obviously. We have to have everyone rise to the occasion and be a good team."
The Blackhawks won despite missing their top defenseman Duncan Keith, who was serving a one-game suspension.
"We took a big effort. You miss a guy that plays the most minutes, meaningful minutes, shift-in, shift-out," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quinneville said of Keith's absence.
"Certainly there's a big void without Dunks. I thought we got a good response after the way we played in game three."