You knew it was only a matter of time before the Kings brought their physical game to this series.
And you had to seriously wonder how the Blackhawks would respond when it happened.
Well, Los Angeles brought it Tuesday night, and the Hawks had absolutely no answer in a 3-1 defeat at the Staples Center, as the Kings sliced their series deficit to 2-1.
"We just cut their lead in half," said Los Angeles defenseman Rob Scuderi. "We know we're good in this building and we expect to tie it up next game. Two games is not a series. You have to win four."
If the Hawks didn't think they were in a series before, they certainly know it now after suffering more than just a defeat in this one. They took a physical pounding and absorbed a psychological hit, as more than a few passengers wanted nothing to do with a very large Los Angeles team that imposed its will.
Few Hawks were willing to pay the price, a fact not lost on captain Jonathan Toews.
"They were physical all over the ice," he said. "We just have to keep our feet moving and take hits to make plays. We got flat-footed and we were watching each other a little too much. When you stand still, you're a target."
The Kings found their legs for the first time in the series, no surprise after returning to a building in which they hadn't lost since March 23.
In Chicago, the Kings didn't use their size, but they adjusted in Game 3, and with a better breakout -- utilizing the middle of the ice -- they were able to chip pucks behind the Hawks' defense and make them pay.
And did they ever make them pay.
"Their work ethic and their physical play led to everything," Toews said. "We didn't quite match that."
The Kings hit from start to finish and from one end to the other, and it contributed to the Hawks' lack of offensive zone time, which is so crucial to keeping the Hawks out of their own end -- where they're sitting ducks.
But after playing most of the first two games in the Los Angeles end, the desperate Kings turned the tables on the Hawks and spent a large portion of Game 3 playing below the dots near the Chicago goal.
"We had more time in the offensive zone tonight," said the Kings' Justin Williams. "In Chicago, we didn't have much time in their zone at all."
Only 3:21 into the game, Williams chased down Nick Leddy and picked his pocket, which is no easy feat. Though three Hawks surrounded Williams, he got loose with the puck and eventually got it back on a perfect cross-ice pass from Slava Voynov, beating Corey Crawford short side.
"We started off the game just how we wanted," Williams said. "We created pressure, played physical, created turnovers and kept them out of transition."
The Kings made it 2-0 in the second when Voynov broke his stick on a shot, crossing up Crawford in the process, and scoring on the short side again.
With less than a half-minute remaining in the second period, Bryan Bickell surprised Kings goalie Jonathan Quick on a wraparound, but that was as close as the Hawks could come, missing several good opportunities in the third period, and, as usual, passing on too many open shots.
"We were very loose before the game," Williams said. "We knew what we had to do. We've been here before."
The Hawks have also been here before, with a 2-1 lead against the Wild in the first round before winning Game 4 in Minnesota.
"We wanted this one. We didn't want to give them any life," Toews said. "But we still like where we are in the series. We know we have to have a much better effort in Game 4."
They might also want to bring some guys who can take a hit -- and make a play.
•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.