With Dustin Brown returning from a two-game suspension in time for the Kings’ playoff opener on the road against the St. Louis blues tonight, Darryl Sutter changed up the forward lines. On Saturday’s regular-season finale at home against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings used lines that saw Anze Kopitar between Kyle Clifford and Jeff Carter, Jarret Stoll between Dustin Penner and Justin Williams, Mike Richards between Dwight King and Trevor Lewis, and Brad Richardson between Tyler Toffoli and Jordan Nolan. Tonight, the lines saw Richards between Brown and Williams, Kopitar between Clifford and Carter, Stoll between King and Lewis, and Richardson between Penner and Nolan. There were actually no changes to the defense, as Matt Greene was not ready to return from an injury that is apparently unrelated to the back injury that he missed most of the season with. Greene sat out Saturday’s game with the undisclosed injury.
Just about seven minutes into the game, we got a couple of minutes of 4-on-4 play as David Perron and Jonathan Quick took roughing penalties. Williams served Quick’s penalty. Late in the penalty, the Kings took a penalty for too many men on the ice (Lewis served it), setting up a brief 4-on-3 power play for the Blues before almost a full two minutes of a 5-on-4 power play. The Kings killed off the 4-on-3, but then with still over a minute remaining in the 5-on-4, Kevin Shattenkirk stepped into a slap shot from the top of the right circle, Quick kicked the puck aside with his right pad, but the rebound went right into the slot where Alex Steen immediately beat Quick by his blocker before he could recover. Pretty much right after, the Blues got a chance to extend their lead, as Mike Richards headed to the penalty box for boarding. The Kings killed this one off, though, and with just over a minute left in the first period, Barret Jackman went off for interference, giving the Kings a chance to tie the game heading into the first intermission. They didn’t, but would have just under a minute left on the power play to work with to start the second period. The Kings were outshot 14-6 in an opening frame that they were dominated in, but was highly entertaining nonetheless.
The Kings failed on the remainder of their power play to start the second period, and then the Blues’ domination continued. With just under six minutes left in the period, Robyn Regehr went off for interference, giving the Blues a chance to extend their lead. With the way this game was going, a 2-0 lead for the Blues would have looked insurmountable for the Kings. The Kings were able to kill it off, but with just under two minutes left, Brown went off for tripping, a terrible offensive-zone penalty. But that’s the way things were going for the Kings tonight. The Kings were able to escape to the second intermission without the Blues dealing any more damage, but they would still have a little bit of the penalty to kill off to start the third period. The Kings were outshot 10-7 as in the middle frame they were terrible yet again.
The Kings killed off the remainder of the power play to start the third period, but then just over a minute into the period, Williams went off for tripping. Yet another offensive-zone penalty for the Kings. The Kings killed it off, though, and once again avoided the dagger. The score remained the same until they pulled Quick for an extra attacker with just under a minute left, and Jake Muzzin, from the right circle in the Kings zone, passed the puck up to his left to Drew Doughty who left the Kings zone, cut to the middle of the Blues neutral zone, passed it up to Williams who entered the Blues zone, cut to the right circle, and beat Brian Elliott by his glove. It still wasn’t a good period for the Kings, as they were outshot 12-6 in the final frame of regulation, but now they at least had a chance in overtime.
The Kings looked better to start overtime, but then just over seven minutes into it, the Kings iced the puck with a tired group on the ice so Darryl Sutter called his timeout. Then with just under eight minutes left, Kevin Shattenkirk took a high-sticking penalty, giving the Kings a chance to win it. He drew blood from Penner, meaning it was a four-minute power play. Naturally, not even a minute into it, Quick made a brutal turnover behind his net to Steen, who came out the right side of the net and backhanded the puck into an empty net. The Kings held a 10-6 edge in shots in overtime.
Well, that wasn’t the start to the playoffs that the Kings were hoping for. They were totally dominated in every area of the game. If you remember my five keys to this series, they needed to win the physical battle with the Blues, they needed Quick to play like he did late in the regular season, they needed to win the battle on special teams, they needed to win one of the first two games in St. Louis, and they needed Kopitar to step up. The Blues dominated the Kings physically, the Blues scored a power-play goal scored one shorthanded, and Kopitar was invisible. Quick was great at playing goalie, but he officially cemented his position as the worst puckhandling anything of all time, and he cost the Kings the game. Quick had been having miscues with the puck all game, and his biggest one cost the Kings the game. Tonight was Quick in a nutshell. He plays fantastic, makes tons of great saves, then lets in a goal that just absolutely makes you shake your head. The ultimate kick in the groin wasn’t just that the overtime goal came off such a brutal turnover by Quick (because those goals are going to happen), but that it came not even a minute into a four-minute power play for the Kings. You can bet the Kings are going to look back at what could have been there if they lose this series. Anyways, the Kings looked a lot better in overtime, and there’s a reason it’s a best-of-seven series. This isn’t going to be decided in one game, and the Kings still have a chance to get the split in St. Louis, and it’ll be hard to complain with that. Anyways, be sure to check in for my post-game reaction after Game 2 on Thursday, but for now, it’s time for my picks for tonight’s three stars.
Third Star: Brian Elliott.
For most of regulation, the Kings didn’t put much pressure on Elliott, but he kept everything out, save for a great shot by Williams late in regulation. The Kings were also much better in overtime, and Elliott was up to the task.
Second Star: Justin Williams.
Few Kings had a strong game tonight, but Williams was one of them. He came ready to play from the opening whistle. He was all over the ice, was actually creating a lot of the few opportunities the Kings got, and was finally rewarded as he tied the game up late with a great shot.
First Star: Alex Steen.
Not much doubt here. Steen got the Blues on the board with a power-play goal early on. It looked like that would be the only goal of the night, but even when the Kings tied it up and sent it to overtime, Steen ended up winning it anyways, taking advantage of that awful, inexcusable mistake by Quick.
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