CHICAGO — The night started with a bit of misdirection and ended with the Kings completely losing their way.
Who was in the Kings' Game 2 lineup, and was center Mike Richards out?
It seemed as changeable as Midwestern weather. But before getting back to those questions — and the weird series of pregame events at United Center — there is one larger, prevailing issue.
Two more losses and the Kings could be out of the playoffs.
On Sunday, Chicago defeated the Kings, 4-2, giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. Game 3 is Tuesday at Staples Center.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was pulled at 9:20 of the second period after allowing four goals on 17 shots, the first time in more than three years he has been taken out of a playoff game.
Though the Kings rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the first round against St. Louis, almost no one is exactly equating the No. 1-ranked Blackhawks with the Blues. Chicago has won five straight games after trailing Detroit, 3-1, in the last round.
"It doesn't matter how they've played the last few games," Quick said. "It's all about Game 3, no matter what took place today or yesterday. It's all about Tuesday."
For the Kings, survival mode might have to proceed without their leading playoff scorer, Richards, who was a last-minute scratch against Chicago in Game 2 after suffering an upper-body injury from a Dave Bolland hit late in Game 1.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter told the media a few hours before the game that Richards was "fine." But Richards, who has a lengthy concussion history, did not feel right after pregame warmups.
"Once his blood got pumping tonight, the adrenaline got going, there were symptoms," Sutter said. "I went in right after warmup, he was sitting there and I said, 'Unless you're 100%, you're not playing.'"
There was genuine confusion in the minutes just before the game, for other reasons. Defenseman Robyn Regehr took a puck to the head during warmups, requiring several stitches, and was initially listed as a scratch on the official Game 2 roster.
At one point, Richards was listed in the lineup. Ultimately, rookie Tyler Toffoli, who had a goal and an assist, took his spot and Jeff Carter, who had the other goal, moved from wing to center on that line. Defenseman Jake Muzzin came out of the lineup and Regehr did end up playing.
The who's-on-first theme never quite went away for the Kings. They played significantly better in the opening period in Game 2 than they did in Game 1, but came away trailing, 2-0.
Chicago scored early in the period, Andrew Shaw at 1:56, and late, defenseman Brent Seabrook at 19:09. The latter goal took the air out of the Kings.
A Kings turnover led to the first goal and Seabrook beat Quick on the far side from the right circle on the second.
An own-goal, off Regehr's stick, resulted in Chicago's third goal, and a two-on-one, finished by former Kings center Michal Handzus, made it 4-0, at 9:20 of the second and that was it for Quick.
The Kings goalie had gone 34 consecutive playoff game without giving up four goals. Jonathan Bernier, who had been suffering from flu recently, came on in relief and faced nine shots. He had not played April 23, at Minnesota.
Defensemen Rob Scuderi and Regehr were united in their support of Quick, though in different ways. "How do you want me to answer that?" Regehr said when asked how he felt when Quick skated to the bench.
Scuderi brought historical perspective to the issue.
"Quickie's given us a chance to win in almost every single game he's played in since I've been in Los Angeles," he said. "Nobody thinks any less of him. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it's not your night, and as a goalie it's a little more obvious. I don't think that was the case in this regard. We gave them too many Grade-A scoring chances and they capitalized.
"You can't give up those opportunities and expect your goalie to bail you out every single time."