Jeff Carter's hat trick another feather in this King's cap

Jeff Carter becomes second King with three playoff goals in one period via @reallisa

There are the little areas of the Kings' dressing room on the road that are almost broken down into fascinating mini-neighborhoods.

Starting goalie Jonathan Quick is at one end, alongside backup Martin Jones. Defenseman Drew Doughty sits close by fellow defensemen Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin. Then there is the happy-go-lucky Kids Corner featuring rookie forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli.

Pearson won't turn 22 until August and Toffoli celebrated his 22nd birthday on April 24. High-scoring forward Jeff Carter joked the other day that, yes, the kids are making him feel old.

Of course, Carter won't be turning 30 until January.

The partnership between Carter and the kids is a fascinating one. They are benefiting from his Stanley Cup playoff and Olympic experience and game-breaking ability. He is getting an injection of youthful exuberance from two kids who started the season in the minors in Manchester, N.H.

"You see them laughing at each other," Carter said. "They have a blast out there."

Is Carter affecting the kids more or is it the other way around?

"I don't know. It depends on who you ask," Pearson said, smiling. "He's been great to us. We've been playing well and we're creating offensive chances, which is what you have to do. He had a pretty good third period with three goals."

It appears Pearson shares Carter's knack for serious understatement. The Kings stunned the Blackhawks by scoring six straight goals in their 6-2 victory in Game 2 at United Center on Wednesday night. Five came in the third period, three scored by Carter, who added an assist, but he downplayed his hat trick, saying: "It was a good period, but didn't really have to do too much."

But his third period will be one that the Elias Sports Bureau will be examining for years to come. Incredibly, the four points came on a mere seven shifts and a not-so-whopping 4 minutes 31 seconds of ice time in the third period.

Talk about pure efficiency.

Carter matched an NHL playoff record and set a Kings postseason record with four points in a period. He became the second player in Kings history to score three goals in one period of a playoff game, joining Tommy Williams, who did it in the third period of Game 4 against Chicago in 1974.

Given a couple more minutes on the ice, Carter might have tied the Kings record for points in a playoff game. That one, five points, is shared by Wayne Gretzky, Tomas Sandstrom and Tony Granato, who all achieved it, incidentally, in the same playoff game against the Calgary Flames on April 10, 1990.

Two years ago, Carter had a playoff hat trick in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on the road against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Elias Sports Bureau determined that Carter became the fifth player since 1975 to record more than one hat trick in the conference finals, joining luminaries Jari Kurri, Mike Bossy, Gretzky and Mark Messier. Kurri did it three times.

With two off days before Game 3 in Los Angeles on Saturday, the series narrative shifted away from Kings center Anze Kopitar versus Blackhawks captain and center Jonathan Toews.

"I think Jeff Carter gets overlooked," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said Thursday in El Segundo. "He was the leading goal scorer in our conference last year. I know a lot of the talk in this series has been about a player on our team [Kopitar] and a player on their team [Toews].

"Jeff is just as important to our team as both those players that are getting talked about. Those kids get an opportunity to play with a top player in the Western Conference. That pretty much speaks for it."

The line of Pearson-Carter-Toffoli combined for four goals, seven points and a plus-five rating. Carter's first goal came on the power play and the third one was an empty-netter. Pearson assisted on Carter's second goal, which made it 5-2.

"His minutes aren't specifically with those boys," Sutter said of Carter. "He played the power play with Kopi and Gabby [Marian Gaborik]. He was penalty killing with Mike [Richards]. He played regular strength with Gabby and Kopi."

In other words, Carter's versatility gives Sutter more options, another tool to make those necessary in-game adjustments. The sort of moves Sutter needed to make when the Kings were teetering on the brink of elimination against the Sharks in the first round and against the Ducks in the second.

Carter has seven goals and 16 points in the playoffs and has been held off the score sheet just once since Game 4 of the Ducks series. He had a point in all but one of the seven games in the opening round against the Sharks.

"I think he really showed to everyone in the world what he could do in the Olympics this year," Toffoli said. "It's incredible to play with him. He's a real easy guy to play with. I've said it a lot of times. He's really honest. He'll let you know if you're doing things right or wrong. I think that's what is making our line successful so far.

"I think we've just got to keep moving forward and keep making plays, working hard, just keep playing the way we're supposed to be playing."

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