LOS ANGELES, Calif.-- The Los Angeles Kings figured if they had any chance of making the Western Conference finals competitive again, they needed to stop the Chicago Blackhawks before they got their wheels spinning.
The Kings followed that game plan from the start Tuesday night in Game 3 at Staples Center, capitalizing on an early turnover to take the lead for good in the 3-1 victory that trimmed Chicago's series lead to 2-1.
The Kings outhit the Blackhawks, 36-26, and forced them into five giveaways in the first period and 15 overall, the most since they had 17 in the opening game of the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild.
"Our physicality helps," said Kings forward Dustin Brown. "They've got really mobile defensemen. If we can slow them down, hit them. ... no one wants to be hit."
The tenacity in Chicago's zone seemed to frustrate the visitors as the game wore on, reaching a crescendo during the second period when Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith took a swipe at Los Angeles forward Jeff Carter from behind with his stick, smashing him in the mouth and resulting in a four-minute double-minor.
Carter was unavailable for comment after the game because he was having his teeth worked on, but Keith was quick to defend himself on the play, which is likely to draw a second look from league disciplinarians.
"Yeah it was accidental," he said. "Obviously, I wanted to give him a tap, but not where I got him. I felt bad. I'm glad to see that he came back."
Fellow defenseman Nick Leddy was guilty of the most costly turnover. He was under pressure to clear the puck and gave it away to Kings winger Justin Williams, who got it back seconds later and scored 3:21 into the game for a 1-0 lead.
"I thought we had some good shifts in the first and then it came down to one play where we weren't good defensively in our own end and it cost us," Keith said.
Chicago forward Jonathan Toews, who has one goal in the postseason, said the Kings were physical all over the ice, but Chicago should've had a better answer for that strategy.
"We just have to keep our feet moving and take hits to move plays," he said. "We kind of got flat-footed and we were watching each other too much. When you're standing still you're an easy target for them."
Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said that was all part of the plan, something they failed to accomplish while losing the first two games of the series. The further they can keep Chicago's forwards from their net, the better their chances of advancing to a second straight Stanley Cup final.
"We just want to play in their zone more," he said. "We feel that if we can play down there, it plays into our hands, it plays to our advantage. We can just make them play defense. They have an unbelievably quick transition team and the best way to counter that is to just play in their zone and make all five of their guys come back."