Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and captain Dustin Brown scored in a dominant first period Monday as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2, to take a 3-1 lead in the NHL Western Conference finals.
Muzzin and Drew Doughty each had a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Quick made 22 saves as the Kings moved to the brink of their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in three seasons with their third consecutive win over the defending champion Blackhawks.
Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell scored, and Corey Crawford stopped 16 shots for the Blackhawks, who didn’t get rolling until they trailed, 4-0, late in the second period.
One year after Los Angeles lost the conference finals in five games to Chicago, the Kings have their own chance to close it out in five.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News Tribune
Game 5 is Wednesday in Chicago.
Tanner Pearson added an empty-net goal for the Kings, who have been to the NHL finals just twice in franchise history, winning their only title in 2012.
Two days after the Kings gritted out a 4-3 victory over Chicago in Game 3, they won again at Staples Center by scoring three goals on six shots in the first 16 minutes, capping an incredible three-game offensive performance by the lowest-scoring NHL team to make the postseason.
After a 2-0 deficit late in the second period of Game 2, Los Angeles scored 13 goals in less than 100 minutes.
After Muzzin scored on a power play and Gaborik added his 10th goal of the postseason, Brown banged a puck into an empty net for a 3-0 lead.
The Blackhawks shuffled their lineup after two poor offensive performances, beginning Game 4 with captain Jonathan Toews centering Bickell and Patrick Kane, who still doesn’t have a goal in the series.
Last year, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville teamed Toews with Kane — the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner — when his club fell into a 3-1 series hole against Detroit in the second round. The Blackhawks escaped that deficit on the way to their second Stanley Cup title in four years.
The Kings committed two offensive-zone penalties early in Game 4, but Chicago’s power play remained inept.
After Marian Hossa negated a power play for the Blackhawks by running into Quick, the Kings went ahead when Doughty found Muzzin for a heavy slap shot past Carter’s screen.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years, the Washington Capitals hired former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz and promoted Brian MacLellan to general manager. Trotz was the Predators’ coach for 15 seasons before being dropped in April. In Washington, he takes over for Adam Oates, who was fired last month with a season left on his three-year deal. MacLellan replaces George McPhee, whose contract was not renewed after 17 seasons. The Buffalo Sabres signed forward Nicolas Deslauriers to a two-year contract. Deslauriers, a restricted free agent, was acquired in a trade with the Kings on March 5. The 23-year-old played in 17 of the Sabres’ last 20 games and impressed with his physical presence. He scored one goal for Buffalo. TUESDAY: Eastern Conference finals, N.Y. Rangers at Montreal, 5 p.m., NBCSN, CBUT (Rangers lead series, 3-1)