Look out Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter is nipping at your heels.
With his fourth goal in two games (fifth in three), Carter has helped the Los Angeles Kings erase an early 1-0 deficit and take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference final.
Entering the series Kopitar was running away with the playoff scoring lead, but he has been mostly silent against the Chicago Blackhawks. He has one assist in three games and has been otherwise invisible.
Carter, on the other hand, has been electric. He had an assist in Game 1; three goals and four points in Game 2 and Saturday continued to rock with a goal and two assists. That leaves him with eight goals and 19 points in 17 games; one point behind Kopitar.
Carter has been so good that Chicago coach Joel Quenneville made a strategic swap when he decided to play superstar two-way centre Jonathan Toews against him instead of Kopitar.
Carter said the extra attention did not alter the way he played.
"No, it does not change at all," he said. "Tanner [Pearson] and Tyler [Toffoli] and I talk a lot about being good in our end and creating offence from playing defence and they really bought into that. I think it showed in this series. We created a lot from our own end."
The Kings fell behind 2-0 in Game 2, but rebounded with five unanswered goals to get back in the series. Carter said they have built off that.
"It is big," he said. "It's no secret that we struggled against these guys in the past couple of years. I think to come back and win a game in their rink is big for us and we carried it over to tonight."
The early lead appears...then disappears
Chicago struck first on the road courtesy of a Justin Williams giveaway. Williams, one of the Kings best playoff performers, has a weakness for coughing up the puck - 16 in 16 playoff games heading into Game 3 - and this time it cost his team.
He lost the puck at centre allowing Toews to break in alone and beat Jonathan Quick through the five-hole at 5:26.
The visitors had barely finished high-fiving each other when Los Angeles defenceman Slava Voynoy tied it 50 seconds later on a slap shot from the right point. Jeff Carter, holding a hot hand with seven points in three games entering the game, directed a pass to Marian Gaborik that missed. Fortunately for the Kings it found Voynov at the point and scored his second of the playoffs.
When you're hot, you're hot
Toews, a leading contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs, scored his second of the night at 13:19. This time he didn't have to do much other than get to the net. Upon arrival a blocked shot dropped right in front of him and all he had to do was tap it behind Quick.
Best hand, a pair of Kings
Carter continued to roll midway through the second period scoring his second of the night at 8:08. Good fortune continued to come his way as the puck hit the ref behind the net and gravitated to Carter in front. He snapped it home.
Six minutes later, his linemate Toffoli scored his sixth of the playoffs, breaking in alone and beating Crawford with a forehand shot after a nifty little deke. His goal vaulted him into a tie for first in post-season scoring among rookies with Boston defenceman Torey Krug and Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon. Both players' teams have been eliminated.
How important is winning the draw in the offensive zone? Well, when you are up 3-2 in the third period and you are playing the team favoured to win it all, it's pretty significant.
Jarret Stoll didn't get an assist on L.A.'s fourth goal of the game, putting them up 4-2, when he won a draw on the Chicago zone, but that pretty much cemented the game for the home team. He drew it back to Justin Williams, who relayed it to Jake Muzzin who, in turn, found defensive partner Drew Doughty at the right point and Doughty's blast beat Crawford.
As expected, Chicago centre Andrew Shaw made his series debut in Game 3. He had been out with a lower body injury sustained in Game 1 of Round 2. Shaw said he could have played earlier, if necessary, but when his team won Game 1 of the Western Conference final, a decision was made to give him more time to convalesce. When the Hawks lost Game 2, well, things changed.
An energy player, Shaw played seven shifts in the opening period for 4:11 of ice time with four hits. He played six shifts, 4:16 ice time and had one hit in the second, and six shifts and 4:01 in the third with one hit. He had no shots on goal.
Two minutes for Slashing
Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash (his mom calls him Saul Hudson) played the national anthem prior to the game. Did a decent job...recalling memories of Jimi Hendrix doing likewise at the original Woodstock festival. Wore his trademark hat, though. Boo.