Corey Crawford, Jeff Carter

Kings put Blackhawks on brink of elimination with Game 4 victory


The L.A. Kings are one win away from making it back to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years. Meanwhile, the defending champs, the Chicago Blackhawks, are on the verge of elimination.

The Kings, champions two years ago, got off to a roaring start in a pivotal Game 4 Monday, stunning the Blackhawks by opening up a three-goal lead in the first period, before adding to that in the second period, before finally taking this one by a final of 5-2. The Kings now lead the best-of-seven Western Conference Final 3-1.

For the Blackhawks, it was a disastrous start. They were given two chances on the power play before the game was even 10 minutes old, but their second advantage was wiped out when Marian Hossa was involved in a crease collision with Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick and called for goalie interference.

One play early in a game. True. But L.A. eventually got the power play and made Chicago pay, when Jake Muzzin beat Corey Crawford with a perfect wrist shot. Difficult for the Blackhawks goalie to make any kind of save with Jeff Carter standing right in front of the net.

The Blachawks did make things interesting, after it earlier appeared like they would get run out of the building by the host Kings.

Brandon Saad got Chicago on the board with a beautiful backhand shot in the second period, and Bryan Bickell cut the deficit to two goals before the midway point of the third.

They wouldn’t get any closer. That’s not three straight losses in these playoffs for Chicago. Their top players struggled throughout Monday’s game, with L.A. capitalizing in the first period on turnovers from Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith.

Patrick Kane, who didn’t have a point in this series through the first three games, added an assist on the Bickell goal, but he hasn’t scored in the last four games.

The series shifts back to Chicago, and the Kings have a chance to eliminate the Blackhawks.

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen