Slava Voynov opened the scoring in Game 4. It bode well for the Los Angeles Kings, who were a perfect 22-0-0 this season when scoring first in front of the Staples Center crowd. Couple that with their 8-0 record at home in these playoffs and there was cause for optimism in LA.
When the final horn sounded, there was markedly less.
In the span of three minutes (and an intermission), the Chicago Blackhawks scored twice, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead that would be the final score. The Blackhawks took Game 4, and with it, a commanding 3-1 lead on the Western Conference Final as the series shifts back to Chicago for Game 5.
Marian Hossa scored the game-winner at 1:10 of the third period. After the Kings got caught on a sloppy line change, Johnny Oduya found Michal Handzus streaking into the LA end to kick off an odd-man rush, and Handzus paid it forward, feeding Hossa at the top of the circle.
Hossa absolutely crushed a one-timer past Jonathan Quick:
And that's why Marian Hossa is the best Hossa.
The goal seemed to knock the wind right out of LA, who struggled to even generate shots for the remaining 18:50 of the game. They tested Corey Crawford just twice.
Granted, they aren't used to playing from behind in home games where they opened the scoring. (For future reference: shoot the puck, Kings. You're supposed to shoot.)
Give the Blackhawks credit for the Kings' hapless third, however. Their defence played a major role.
"The defense in front of Crow (Crawford) combined to do an outstanding job," said Joel Quenneville. "Tough team to shut down in the third. They deserve a lot of credit."
In the absence of Duncan Keith, Chicago's blueline corps did what they had to do, adjusting, tightening up, and refusing to take their foot off the gas just because their engine was in the press box. For the third time in four games, they were the visibly speedier team. The Kings struggled to keep up, and it may simply have been exhaustion that led to their ineffective final frame.
Quenneville emphasized Chicago's speed, both as the difference in Game 4 and as their gameplan for Game 5. "We want to make sure we're playing like we have in 1, 2 and 4. Speed, everybody contributing," he said. Try to keep the pace, try to make them play defense."
Chicago now finds themselves one game from the Stanley Cup Final, and the Kings have a long road ahead of them. They'll have to be perfect from here on out.
That's troubling, since it means means winning twice on the road -- something LA has been unable to do more than once this postseason.