CHICAGO -- The condolence cards will have postmarks from San Jose and Anaheim.
The Chicago Blackhawks should have known better. Yes, they were busy in the first two rounds, trying to win their own playoff series, but at some point someone should have given them a memo about the Kings.
One sentence would cover it: "They don't go away." Not in a playoff series, not in a game and not in a period. Lesson learned, as the Kings scored six consecutive goals, five in the third period, and pulled off a stunning 6-2 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference final Wednesday night at United Center.
Jeff Carter scored three of the third-period goals as the Kings handed the Blackhawks their first home loss of the playoffs and tied this series, 1-1, with Game 3 on Saturday at Staples Center.
"This is a huge game for our approach, our psyche," captain Dustin Brown said. "Kind of like slaying the mythical dragon. We've been dominated by this team over over last couple of years. To come in here and get a win in their building with the type of home record they have, I think gives us a boost in confidence."
The Kings have already rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to stun the Sharks and a 3-2 deficit to dump the Ducks. They pulled another magic trick Wednesday, after 38 minutes of mostly dismal play, when they scored four goals in a 10-minute, 45-second span to turn a two-goal deficit into a two-goal lead.
"It's not that we're comfortable ... well, maybe we're a little comfortable being behind," center Jarret Stoll said. "We're used to it I guess. You never quit. You can't quit. Crazy things can happen when you score. You can't quit until it's over and that's all it is. ... You keep pushing and pushing."
The scoring output? Historic. Carter's four third-period points (he assisted on a Tyler Toffoli goal) tied an NHL single-period playoff record. The Kings scored five goals in a period for the third time in team history.
"It's a tough building to win in," Carter said. "They were undefeated in the playoffs (at home), so it's a good confidence builder for us. Getting a split in this building is really good."
Of the Kings' 18 skaters, 12 recorded at least one point. For key moments, though, first look back to a successful 38-second, five-on-three Kings penalty kill that kept the game scoreless in the first period.
Then look the lunging save made by Jonathan Quick, on a Chicago two-on-one, with 7:15 remaining in the first period, which kept the Kings' deficit at only 2-0. The Kings, except for Quick, were flailing, not generating scoring chances, getting regularly beat by long passes and hurt by their own turnovers.
Then it started, as things often do, with a fluke. Mike Richards' centering pass went off the skate of Justin Williams and trickled past goalie Corey Crawford to make it a 2-1 game with 1:46 left in the second period.
"We knew we could win this game," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We knew we hadn't had our best effort yet. We knew the third period was going to be our best period of this series so far. We were just adamant in here about coming out and getting pressure and getting a goal early, and we did that."
The Kings' power play got it going in the third period. Brandon Bollig took an interference penalty at 1:14, and Carter scored on a deflection 23 seconds later. Chicago was called for too many men on the ice at the 2:50 mark, and Jake Muzzin scored a sniper's goal 1:14 later.
The dagger came 8:59 into the third, when Toffoli scored to give the Kings a 4-2 lead.
Crawford harmlessly deflected a Carter shot toward the glass behind the net. Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy inexplicably stopped skating, but Kings winger Tanner Pearson didn't, and he centered the puck to Toffoli for a close-range goal that deflated what remained of the Blackhawks' spirit.
Carter added a late empty-netter.
"The way it turned on a dime like that," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said, "I don't know if we've seen a game like that all year where we're doing everything right and then all of a sudden it was a disaster."
YOUNGSTERS GROW UP
A playoff run fueled by fresh blood? The Kings have some experience with that concept.
Tyler Toffoli, 22, and Tanner Pearson, 21, have played big roles in these playoffs as second-line wingers on either side of veteran center Jeff Carter. That has arguably been the Kings' best line and it played a major role Wednesday in the Kings' victory over Chicago in Game 2 of the Western Conference final.
Toffoli scored a third-period goal to give the Kings a 4-2 lead. It came when Pearson alertly grabbed the puck after an awkward bounce off the glass behind the Chicago net, then fed it to Toffoli in front.
"I knew Toff would be in the slot somewhere," Pearson said, "so I just passed it out there and fortunately he was there and put it in."
Five minutes later, Pearson did it again, with a deft pass from the boards. That sparked a two-on-one for Toffoli and Carter, who kept the puck and buried it – and the Blackhawks – to give the Kings a 5-2 lead.
How about those kids?
"Every championship team has a lot of the same qualities and attributes, and having young guys step up is one of them," Kings winger Justin Williams said. "You can't make it through the playoffs with just a few guys. You need everybody."
Two years ago, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup, two rookie wingers, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan (then both 22), had lower-profile roles but brought energy when called up from the AHL late in the season.
Toffoli was with Kings for much of the regular season, but seemed to blossom during the first round against San Jose when paired with Pearson, who played only 25 regular-season games.
The youngsters regularly played on the same line in the AHL, and both have drawn significant praise. Pearson also had a goal in the Kings' Game 7 victory over the Ducks in the second round.
Toffoli must like the sight of red. In 10 career games against Chicago (regular season and playoffs), Toffoli has five goals and four assists.
"He's a confident player," Carter said. "He had success last year in the playoffs. He's played well for us this year. I think everybody has those kind of teams that they feel comfortable going out and playing against and I think for Tyler that's probably fitting here in this series. He's a guy that has great skill."
The Kings made a minor lineup tweak for a second consecutive game, as veteran defenseman Matt Greene replaced Jeff Schultz.
Greene played eight consecutive games because of injuries to Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr, but was scratched in Game 1 because of Mitchell's return. Regehr missed an eighth consecutive game but could resume skating before the end of this week.
Chicago winger Andrew Shaw missed a seventh consecutive game because of a lower-body injury, but might be able to play in Game 3.
Chicago center Michal Handzus once helped the Kings build. Now he's trying to beat them.
Handzus was a defense-first center who played four seasons for the Kings (2007-11) and helped mentor young players such as Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty.
"When I got there, they said they were going to rebuild," Handzus said. "They had some very good pieces, with Kopi and (Dustin Brown), and then they drafted (Doughty). It was only a matter of time before they got it together and got more experience and started playing well. It doesn't surprise me."
By the end of his Kings stint, Handzus was dropped to a fourth-line role, but the 37-year-old forward is still plugging along, and thriving with Chicago in a second-line role with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad.
Handzus missed out on the Kings' 2012 Stanley Cup run, but got a ring last year after Chicago acquired him in a late-season trade with San Jose.
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