LOS ANGELES — A desperate Los Angeles Kings team did everything it could to frustrate the Golden Knights on Sunday. And for the better part of two periods, it seemed to work.
But the Knights settled down when it mattered most, and they own a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinals as a result.
James Neal and William Karlsson scored 21 seconds apart in the third period, and the Knights rallied for a 3-2 victory on Sunday at Staples Center to take complete control of the best-of-seven series.
Cody Eakin also scored in the third for the Knights, who won their third straight one-goal game in the series and will go for the sweep when Game 4 takes place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Staples Center.
“We knew what they were going to come out and do,” Neal said. “They were hard on us. They were physical, a heavy team that you’d expect. Kind of weathered the storm a bit at the start, and I thought we continued to get to our game until the third.”
The Kings welcomed back defenseman Drew Doughty after he was suspended for Game 2 and were content to throw their weight around for two periods. By the end of the second, Los Angeles appeared to get under the Knights’ skin.
Jonathan Marchessault took a high-sticking penalty on Doughty with 1.1 seconds left in the period, and Doughty mocked Marchessault afterward, clapping in his face.
“We’re not going to get the calls if we’re kind of retaliating, so the best way to do it is push through it, skate through it, skate through their checks, skate through the adversity, and we did a good job of that in the third,” Eakin said. “Just the shovel-and-pail kind of mentality. It’s been working, so we’re going to continue with that.”
But the Knights answered in the third period despite being outshot 17-9.
Neal, who dished out a team-high eight hits, danced around Kings defenseman Oscar Fantenberg and whipped a shot between the legs of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick to put the Knights ahead 2-1 with 5:37 remaining.
“You want to score big goals, for sure,” Neal said. “I think when you do the right things — if you’re finishing your checks, you’re playing well defensively — the goals will come. I’ve been in enough of those games that I feel like if you stick with it, you’ll get your chance.”
Karlsson put the Knights up 3-1 soon after when he was left unchecked after a faceoff and one-timed a pass from Reilly Smith with 5:16 left.
Anze Kopitar scored for Los Angeles with 2:04 remaining, but the Knights were able to hold on.
Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 37 saves.
“When there’s not too many goals let in, it’s always a good thing,” Fleury said. “Again, it was so close, right till the end. I feel like every shot matters. But it’s fun when you come out on top.”
After the teams combined for 263 hits in the opening two games, the Kings set a physical tone in the first period, crashing into everyone in a white jersey.
Jon Merrill absorbed a big hit from Adrian Kempe, which knocked the Knights defenseman’s helmet to the side of his head, and Los Angeles finished the period with a 28-13 advantage in hits.
But unlike the opening two games of the series when the Knights grabbed the lead in the opening 20 minutes, the Kings used a strong forecheck to strike for the first goal with 6:46 remaining.
Dustin Brown fought off a check from defenseman Nate Schmidt behind the Knights net and moved the puck to Kopitar, who then found rookie Alex Iafallo alone at the back post.
Iafallo, a healthy scratch in Game 2, lifted a shot over Fleury into the top of the net that quickly bounced out. The on-ice officials waved off the goal as the Kings celebrated, but it was confirmed by video replay.
“We knew L.A. was going to make a strong push at us,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “They’re down 2-0 in the series. We expected a hard, physical game from them. I thought our guys handled it well. After the second period we talked about keeping our composure, and I thought our veteran guys — Fleury, (Deryk) Engelland, Neal — did a good job of settling us down.”
1. Getting chippy. The action heated up in Game 3 with several scrums. Knights forward William Carrier and the Kings’ Kyle Clifford dropped the gloves in the first period, but the linesmen stepped in before they could throw punches. In the second period, Erik Haula appeared to catch Anze Kopitar with the butt-end of his stick after getting knocked down.
2. That 70s Line. The Kings struggled to generate offense while falling behind in the series, so coach John Stevens reunited center Jeff Carter (No. 77) with wings Tanner Pearson (No. 70) and Tyler Toffoli (No. 73) on Sunday. Carter had four shots on goal and won 17 of 44 faceoffs in the first two games.
3. Celebrity watch. It’s Los Angeles, which means a number of celebrities were in attendance at Staples Center. In addition to actors Margot Robbie and Eric Stonestreet, former soccer star David Beckham was shown on the video scoreboard.
David Schoen Review-Journal