Jeff Carter steals the show from Jonathan Toews as Kings take Game 3

JeffCarterTylerToffoli

Before the recap, please enjoy the U.S. national anthem, courtesy of Slash. Because it’s 1991.

Early on in Game 3, it looked like the narrative had been woven. It was simple: Jonathan Toews is the best leader, two-way player, and clutch playoff performer in the National Hockey League, and he’s going to will the Blackhawks to victory. He’ll do it all himself if he has to. He started with this:

Deflating for the Kings, you might think. A gorgeous individual effort by Toews, silencing the Staples Center. It was a moment that could have defined the game, but Slava Voynov’s goal under a minute later allowed the Kings to reset.

Chances went both ways in an even period, punctuated by Toews scoring yet again, this time by muscling his way to the front of the net.

THN’s Adam Proteau responded, in reference to the latest of Toews’s seemingly endless parade of big goals, labelling Toews as ‘Captain Are You Serious.’

Once again, a goal that could have easily defined the game.

But in the second period, repeated failures on the power play sucked the air from the lungs of Chicago, as the Hawks failed with the extra man on three straight opportunities in the frame after going 0-for-1 in the first period. The superbly talented first unit of Toews, Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp couldn’t put one past Jonathan Quick. Each Chicago failure was a Los Angeles success, and momentum shifted the way of the Kings.

At the other end of the rink, Corey Crawford faced just four shots in the period, but two of them lit the lamp. If there’s anyone in the playoffs with the right to do the “hot stick” celebration these days, it’s Jeff Carter. After four points in Game 2, he scored again Saturday night and proceeded to set up Tyler Toffoli to put the Kings ahead 3-2. Carter, alongside Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, have emerged as L.A.’s most dangerous trio. And according to the official Kings Twitter account, they have a name.

Despite leading, Los Angeles carried play for most of the third, outshooting the Hawks 18-7. After Drew Doughty scored to put the Kings up 4-2, the game felt like it was over, and apparently that’s how it felt to the Blackhawks, too.

And with that, the Kings gained the series edge, up 2-1 in a dance that still looks like it will go seven games. Based on everything we know about the Blackhawks (namely, that they’re the Blackhawks), they’ll put Game 3 behind them and return to the Staples Center on Monday with a better effort.

Though, if the Kings are able to build on this victory and prevent the series from going seven, how might that happen? Well, if Jeff Carter plans to score three points per game habitually, it could be a short series. If the Hawks continue to fail on the power play, it could be a short series. And while nobody on TV or on Twitter was heaping blame on Corey Crawford for his team’s Game 3 defeat, he did give up two goals on four shots in the pivotal second period. Crawford can be better.

Doughty played with extra swagger in the victory, and that’s exciting if you’re a Kings fan. More than any player in this matchup, including ‘Captain Are You Serious’, Doughty has the ability to take over a series. Chicago needs to throw perfect rainbow dump-ins to Doughty’s corner and wear him down. Or something. (Does anyone really know how to nullify No. 8 in black?)

Carter is now second in playoff scoring with 19 points, trailing only Anze Kopitar’s 20. It’s early, but both are firmly in the Conn Smythe conversation, along with Doughty. The Kings, who sustained a pre-Olympic break scoring drought that the inarticulate would call “epic,” now lead the playoffs in goals per game with 3.29.