ST LOUIS, Mo – After a victory in game one, the Blues sought to continue their spirited play showing the defending champions they could skate with them, a much different result than in the 2012 playoffs. That the Blues competed so well with the Kings, it remained a shock that for the second game in a row, a relatively soft goal decided the game giving the Blues a 2-1 victory in game two over the Kings Thursday night at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was injured in warm-up after taking a shot to the mid-section and it was feared he might be unable to play, was stellar throughout the game. But it was the final shot of the game fired from the stick of defenseman Barrett Jackman from the top of the face-off circle which eluded the outstretched catching glove of Quick giving the Blues the lead with just 50 seconds left in the game. Despite the result, the game did not start out in St. Louis’ favor.
St. Louis began the night right where they left off in game one with aggressive and relentless checking. But it didn’t take long for the over aggressive play to cause the Blues to be shorthanded when Alex Steen tripped Dustin Brown just 0:26 seconds into the game.
The Blues killed off the penalty, but just four minutes later Jaden Schwartz was whistled for firing the puck over the glass preventing the Blues from getting into a steady rhythm. The Blues killed most of the penalty off before the Kings took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty.
Just shy of six minutes into the period, the Blues were leading the hit count 6-0, but the Kings were leading in shots 5-1 and controlling the play early.
Things went from bad to worse when St. Louis took consecutive penalties just 24 seconds apart. At 9:25 of the period, Blues bruiser Ryan Reaves was sent off for giving Kings Colin Fraser a high stick and then Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman was called for interference on an off-side play when he outmuscled the Kings Drew Doughty to the ice.
Sensing a golden opportunity to net the first goal, the Kings took the two-man advantage and scored just sixteen seconds from the ensuing face-off to take the lead.
Kings winger Anze Kopitar took the puck on the sideboards and dished it off to Doughty at the right point. Doughty sent a wrist short toward the goal where Dustin Brown was planted in front of Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. Brown’s deflection off the shaft of his stick bounced through the legs of the sprawling goaltender and into the net for a 1-0 Kings lead.
The Blues best chance came late in the period. With Dustin Brown sent off for tripping the Blues Jaden Schwartz with three minutes left, the Blues pressured Quick. Schwartz had the best effort when he sent a fluttering shot toward the Kings net which Quick barely deflected into the corner with his right pad.
The period ended with the Kings leading in shots 12-7 while the Blues led in penalties. It was clear the Blues needed to get back into their disciplined, five-man play and stay out of the penalty box. Officiating was suspect on several impactful plays including the penalty to Jackman which contributed to the two-man advantage leading to the Kings goal.
The second period began with end-to-end action with plenty of physical play from the Blues line of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves punishing Kings players in their own zone. The line has generated so much heart-stopping excitement that they even have their own nickname, the CPR line, designed from the first letters of each of the player’s last names.
Elliott was tested several times early in the period and facing shots at the top of his crease instead of having his heals on his goal line as he did when the game-tying goal was scored in game one. Elliott’s confidence seemed to inspire the Blues as the period wore on as he faced a few more tests than Quick at the other end of the ice.
As both teams traded several scoring chances mid-way through the period, neither team could solve the other and frustration led to an opportunity for St. Louis. Eleven minutes into the second period, St. Louis went on the power play when the Kings’ Jordan Nolan was sent off for slashing the Blues’ Adam Cracknell just as the puck was being dropped for a face-off in the neutral zone.
The Blues had their best chance when about a minute into the power play Alex Steen took a cross ice pass from Alex Pietrangelo and one-timed a shot toward Quick who slid to his left and deflected the puck safely into the corner. It was the Blues first power play shot in three attempts to this point in the game.
Even after the power play expired, the Blues pounded the Los Angeles net, but Quick was up to the task preserving the zero on the St. Louis side of the scoreboard.
The Blues had another man-advantage when Dustin Penner was called for boarding David Backes just seven minutes left in the period. The stifling Kings defense prevented the Blues from registering a shot on goal leaving them 0 for 4 on the power play with just one shot.
The period ended with the Kings edging the Blues in shots 23-15 and in goals 1-0.
Finally, paying the price along the boards finally paid off. Just over three minutes into the period, the Blues broke out of their own zone with David Perron starting the rush on the left side. Perron sent a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone to Alex Pietrangelo who was streaking up the right side.
As Pietrangelo crossed the blue line, he sent the puck toward the Los Angeles goal where it reached Quick right about the same time as when Patrik Berglund arrived. Quick made the initial save with his right pad, but the puck went off Berglund’s stick and then his skate as he continued toward the net where the puck trickled over the Quick’s right pad to tie the game. The Blues has finally solved what had been an impenetrable Kings goal.
As play resumed, the Blues continued their relentless checking and aggressive play matching the Kings in every way and taking an edge in putting Los Angeles on their heels.
Schwartz intercepted a poor pass by defenseman Jake Muzzin to the right of the Los Angeles goal and broke in all alone on Quick. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty put his stick on Schwartz preventing him from ever getting a shot off.
Nine minutes into the period, Blues fans gasped and then breathed a sigh of relief when Kings’ captain Dustin Brown broke in on the left side driving toward the net with an excellent scoring chance. Although Elliott stopped the drive, Brown was tripped up by Alex Pietrangelo and slammed into the Blues goaltender. After a few minutes, play resumed with Elliott in net ready to continue backstopping the Blues.
With just less than five minutes left, the Kings had a glorious chance when Justin Williams created a turnover and cruised in on Elliott who made the first save before Colin Fraser repeatedly bounded away at the protected puck. Elliott’s solid play continued to steady the team’s confidence in their netminder.
The Blues had their chances during a furious sixty seconds in the Los Angeles zone. A series of shots from David Backes and David Perron just went wide of the net. The Kings countered with their own assault, but Elliott stood strong thwarting each attempt.
In the final two minutes, St. Louis pressed for the goal in regulation with a long shift which clearly had the Kings worn out, but Quick kicked everything away until Jackman’s goal with just less than a minute left.
The Blues outshot the Kings in the third period outshooting them 10-6 and closing the final shot totals to 29-25 in favor of Los Angeles. The penalty-free third period lent itself to greater tolerance by the officials in allowing physical play. The teams registered 38 hits a piece with St. Louis taking the edge in hits during the third period 23-15.
The series shifts to Los Angeles for game three at the Staples Center Saturday night at 10:00 PM ET.
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