The tides had to turn at some point.
In Tuesday’s opening series matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings, it was the Kings who were finally on the losing end. After going 0-7-1 in the last eight meetings (regular season and playoffs), the Blues came up with a solid effort against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, who ousted the Blues in a four-game sweep last May.
The Blues outshot the Kings 42-29, while also dominating in the face-off circle with a 63.8% (44-69).
Although Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was outstanding to say the least, it was his misplay of the puck that led to the game-winning goal at 13:26 of overtime. While his team was on the power-play, Quick tried to play the puck behind his team’s net but the pass was intercepted by Blues forward Alex Steen. The Canadian-born Swede quickly wrapped back in front and threw the puck into the gaping net for his second goal of the game.
“It’s exactly what it looked like,” Quick said after the game. “I tried to make a pass. [Steen] blocked it and scored.
“I don’t have an option to the left and you’re trying to force him to the left… trying to give my D-man a little more time with the puck. You give it to him early and then he [Steen] is up his ass. You try to make him make a decision and he gets his stick on it.”
Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter expressed his annoyance with how his team was not ready for the Blues, who finished the regular season with a 12-3-0 record in April.
“[The Blues] came out exactly how you expected them to,” he said. “They played a warp-speed game, they did. We had a handful of guys that weren’t ready for that part of it. It made for a tough time.”
Last post-season, the Kings posted an amazing 16-4 record en route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. They did that with a high-tempo, hard-hitting game that left opponents scrambling in the neutral zone without any options to break into the offensive zone.
The Blues, who play a very similar defensive game as the Kings, seemed to beat the LA team at their own game last night. The bruising fourth-line of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves combined for 18 hits on the night, including two crushing blows from Reaves within about eight seconds of each other in the first period.
If the Kings can see a silver lining from this game (besides Quick’s stellar game before the final play), it is that the Kings showed their identity through most of the overtime period.
After Justin Williams scored with just 31.6 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at one apiece, the Kings started to control the play. Being outshot 36-19 in regulation, the Kings took over the shot count in overtime, 10-6. The Kings kept the Blues hemmed in their zone for long stretches of the period before Quick’s mishap.
“I thought the overtime, we probably played a little bit not to lose and they gained some confidence from it,” said Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock.
This was the Kings’ first road playoff loss since 2011. This is also the first time that the team has been down in any series. They know that they cannot let Game 2 slip away from them as the first game did.
“They came out strong. We knew they would,” Kings forward Dustin Penner said at practice Wednesday morning. “It’s their home rink. They’d lost, I think, the last eight games against us…We weren’t as prepared as we needed to be. We’re coming here Thursday to win one game.”