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updated: 5/25/2014 12:19 AM

Blackhawks in familiar spot after no-show

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  • Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov (26) celebrates his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period of Game 3 of the Western Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Los Angeles, Saturday, May 24, 2014.

      Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov (26) celebrates his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period of Game 3 of the Western Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Los Angeles, Saturday, May 24, 2014.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Blackhawks have been in trouble before.

They were in trouble last year. They've been in trouble this year.

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They know what it smells like -- and there's something about the odor that does something to them.

They've won too many games the last two years to think they can't overcome a 2-1 series deficit, which is where they are after losing to the Kings 4-3 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

If they lose Game 4 Monday night and go down 3-1 in the Western Conference finals, that would be an appropriate time to panic because winning three straight against a team like the Kings will be virtually impossible.

In the meantime, consider that the Hawks were down 2-1 to the Blues last month when they captured Game 4 and evened the series.

They were down 2-1 to the Bruins in that thing called the Stanley Cup Final last June when they won Game 4 on the road in overtime, and just kept winning until they lifted Lord Stanley's bowl.

They were down 3-1 to the Red Wings last spring when they finally found their best effort.

So it would not be shocking if the Hawks played their best game of the playoffs Monday, following one of their worst, and tied the series at 2-2, thus taking back home-ice advantage.

This is what the Hawks do.

But you keep wondering when they're going to flirt with disaster against the wrong team, a team too tough mentally and physically to let it happen, and the Kings -- the 2012 champs -- certainly appear worthy of such a label.

"We need to be the best we possibly can be next game," said captain Jonathan Toews. "The motivation is right there in front of us now."

While Jeff Carter tears the Hawks to shreds, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane have been invisible in this series.

While Drew Doughty dominates at both ends of the ice, the Hawks' defense is running around its own end like it's never seen big, fast forwards in the playoffs before.

Corey Crawford, who should have won the Conn Smythe last year and was the favorite to win it this time heading into the series, is being outplayed by Jonathan Quick.

And though the Hawks are loaded with passengers right now, the Kings are getting a superior effort throughout their lineup.

So while the Hawks continue to stickhandle in the Kings' zone and get their pockets picked repeatedly, L.A. is getting pucks to the net with bodies all over Crawford to keep him from getting a decent look.

The Hawks had a 2-1 lead on a pair of Toews goals, but Quick beat Kane twice from the slot and in close about three minutes into the second period, and then L.A. tied it when Johnny Oduya's pass behind his own net hit referee Steve Kozari, leading to a fire drill and an easy tap-in for Carter after a sweet pass from Tanner Pearson at 8:08.

Los Angeles dominated the middle part of the second and it was still 2-2 when a Hawks power play produced a lonely shot on net. Shortly thereafter, a Hawks turnover allowed Tyler Toffoli to speed in alone and he slid the puck under Crawford's left pad for a 3-2 Kings lead.

It remained that way until midway through the third as a Los Angeles power play was about to expire. Jarrett Stoll beat Toews on the faceoff, Kane missed his assignment and after a cross-ice pass, Doughty had a free look from the point and blasted it through Oduya and past Crawford far side, and that was the hockey game.

The Hawks got a meaningless goal with 4.2 seconds left to make it 4-3 when Nick Leddy simply threw a puck at the net, tipped in by Sharp, but it was too little and way too late.

"There's nothing left to think about now," Toews said. "We just have to give it everything we have."

The Hawks have been outskated and outworked for the better part of three games. They know that. They also know that they can get right back in the series with one strong effort in Game 4 and return home feeling good about their chances.

We'll find out what the Hawks have left. We'll find out very soon how much it means to them to repeat.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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