The Los Angeles Kings will try to stave off elimination and keep their title defense alive on Saturday when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
The Kings won their first Stanley Cup title last spring, but the defending champs are down 3-1 in this best-of-seven series after dropping Thursday's Game 4 on home ice. The Blackhawks recorded a 3-2 win in the pivotal meeting, dealing Los Angeles its first home loss in over two months.
L.A. was an eighth seed when it went 16-4 during the 2012 postseason, but the fifth-seeded Kings are just 9-8 in this year's playoffs. The club was a perfect 8-0 at the Staples Center in this postseason before the Game 4 setback, which also snapped a 15-game home winning streak dating back to the regular season.
The top-seeded Blackhawks now have a chance to close the series at the United Center, where they have built an 8-1 record as the host during this postseason. A win Saturday would give Chicago its first trip back to the Cup Finals since winning it all in 2010, but a loss means the clubs will return to Los Angeles for a Game 6 clash on Monday.
Marian Hossa scored the winner early in the third period on Thursday and the Blackhawks locked down on defense in the final stanza to take the 3-2 decision at Staples Center.
After grabbing the lead just 1:10 into the third, Chicago limited the Kings to just two shots on net and killed off a power play, the 54th successful kill in 56 times shorthanded in the playoffs.
"I think our whole team game was where we were hoping to be last game," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "But I thought we got contributions across the board, especially the guys that lugged a lot of minutes down there, did a real good job of having a good gap, getting some clears, strong in front of the net."
Bryan Bickell posted a goal and an assist, while Patrick Kane also scored for the Blackhawks, who got 19 saves from Corey Crawford in the win. Kane's goal was just his third of these playoffs after he tied for the club lead with 23 goals during the regular season.
"I think the biggest thing was just trying to get the puck any way I could, skate with it, feel into the game, no matter how that was. I thought I did a good job of that," said Kane.
Bickell, meanwhile, notched his eighth marker of the postseason, tying him with Patrick Sharp for the team lead.
Dustin Penner and Slava Voynov scored for the Kings, who lost after taking a 3-1 decision in Game 3 on Tuesday. It was the first setback loss for L.A. since Vancouver notched a victory at the Staples Center on March 23.
Jonathan Quick turned away 25 shots for Los Angeles, which will have to rally with three straight wins if it wants to defend its Stanley Cup crown.
"We just have to take care of our end and go out there and win one on the road," said Quick. "If we lose the next one we're out, we know that, and we'll show up on Saturday."
L.A. has only come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series once in its history, beating the Edmonton Oilers in the opening round of the 1989 playoffs.
The Kings will not only have to stay alive on the road, where it is just 1-7 this spring, but L.A. also has to contend with the return of Chicago's top defenseman Duncan Keith.
Keith, a former Norris Trophy winner, was handed a one-game suspension on Wednesday due to his slash to the face of Kings forward Jeff Carter in Game 3. Michal Rozsival took on increased minutes with Keith out of the lineup in Game 4, but figures to see a return to his previous role on Saturday with Keith back from his ban.
"Dunc is our best offensive defenseman," Rozsival said. "We need him and we will be glad to have him back (on Saturday). But I was happy to do what I could."
Keith is leading Chicago defensemen with 10 points (1G, 9A) this postseason.
Meanwhile, L.A. has played three straight game without valuable two-way centerman Mike Richards, who sustained a head injury in Game 1. Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said Richards is doubtful for Game 5.