Kings forwards Jeff Carter (77) and Justin Williams (14) celebrate the team’s 6-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks with goalie Jonathan Quick Wednesday night. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)
It seems the only time the Los Angeles Kings have excelled in these Stanley Cup playoffs is when their backs are to the wall.
There is really something weird about the way the Los Angeles Kings need to be facing disaster before they wake up and take control.
It has been well documented how twice in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs; once in each of the first two rounds, they have endured three-game losing streaks only to emerge victorious.
It's that old, "we got them right where they want us now" strategy that rarely works.
After losing Game 1 of the Western Conference final 3-1 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks Sunday, the Kings fell behind 2-0 in Game 2 and appeared to be headed toward another defeat late in the second period.
We should have known better, right?
The Kings got on a late second-period roll and didn't let up until they had sent the Blackhawks home with a 6-2 defeat to tie the series, with Games 3 and 4 headed back to Los Angeles.
Veteran forward Jeff Carter, who often plays the wing, but has prospered at centre of late, led the way with three goals and four points for the Kings.
The Blackhawks appeared to be set to take a comfortable 2-0 lead to the dressing room after 40 minutes, but grizzled playoff dynamo Justin Williams of the Kings would have no part of it.
Williams, renowned for taking his game to a higher level in the post-season, got Los Angeles back in the game at 18:14 of the second period when he drove the net and tipped a shot past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. The puck hit his stick and then bounce in off his skate, but after review it was correctly ruled to be a good goal.
Williams, 32, has won Stanley Cups with Carolina and Los Angeles. Aside from the back-to-back seasons of 31 and 33 goals in Carolina, Williams has mostly been a secondary scoring threat in his career, but he raises the level of his play in the spring.
In 2005-06 when the Hurricanes won the Cup, Williams had seven goals and 18 points in 25 playoff games; tied for third most points on his team. When the Kings won it all in 2011-12, he contributed four goals and 15 points in 20 games; again tied for third.
Williams's goal definitely gave the Kings new life.
After the intermission they stormed onto the ice and took command of the game, scoring three goals in 8:58 and when you factor in the Williams goal, it was four in 9:03.
Defenceman Drew Doughty fired a point shot that travelled through a crowd and deflected in by Carter at 1:37 and fellow defender Jake Muzzin connected 2:07 later on the power play after the Blackhawks were tagged with having too many men on the ice.
Rookie Tyler Toffoli continued his brilliant playoff scoring his fifth goal with help from his equally hot linemates Carter and Tanner Pearson. Suddenly, one of the hottest lines in the NHL, they have picked up the slack as the Kings top line of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown have hit a speed bump.
Carter, the veteran, showed a huge burst of speed racing the length of the ice and snapping a shot that Crawford deflected off the glass behind him. It dropped onto the stick of Pearson, who relayed it to Toffoli in the slot and he snapped a shot over Crawford's glove.
Just for fun, Carter put another nail in the Blackhawks' coffin with his fifth of the playoffs, and then a few minutes later capped it with an empty netter for his third of the night.
Shutting down the stars
Trying to beat the Blackhawks means trying to shut down the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, not to mention Brent Seabrooke and Duncan Keith. Of that group, only Keith had a point in the game - an assist.
A couple of the Blackhawks supporting staff, Nick Leddy and Ben Smith, scored to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.
Leddy, a defenceman who has 20 goals in 258 regular-season games and had one goal in 48 playoff games, gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead in the first period with a breakaway goal on the power play when he offered up a Kane-like backhander that fooled Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Smith made it 2-0 in the second after accepting a long stretch pass from defenceman Johnny Oduya. Smith, 25, entered the game with 18 goals in 95 regular-season games and four in 21 post-season games.
The waiting game
Chicago centre Andrew Shaw is getting close to returning, but with a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference final the Blackhawks elected to keep him out of the lineup. Shaw, 22, is out with a lower body injury and said if it was Game 7, not Game 2, it would be a different situation, insinuating he would have played.
Imagine this dynamic duo
Wayne Gretzky was asked on The Dan Patrick Show, which, of today's 30 NHL teams, he could see himself playing on. "Maybe the Blackhawks," The Great One said. "I'd like to play with Patrick Kane. He's a pretty good player." Kane, who has matured nicely into a superb NHL player and leader on the Chicago Blackhawks, had to make do playing with Brandan Saad and Michal Handzus Wednesday.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.
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