Monday, April 30, 2012
Kings: First-period barrage lifts L.A. to 2-0 series lead
By Dan Arritt
Western Conference Semifinals
Kings 5, St. Louis Blues 2
(Kings lead the series, 2-0)
Eight keys to the game:
THE FACTS: All the unlucky bounces, miss-timed centering passes and clanks off the goal post during the first two-thirds of the season began to tilt L.A.'s way in late February. They never caught as many breaks as they did Monday night in St. Louis, however, and even managed to create a few of their own, leading to their second straight playoff victory at Scottrade Center and their seventh consecutive postseason road victory overall.
THE STAT: The Kings scored four goals in the opening period to put the Blues in a deep 4-0 hole. They had not produced a four-goal period in the postseason since 1993, when they scored five in the third period against the Vancouver Canucks. St. Louis, meanwhile, had not allowed four playoff goals in a period since 1996.
TURNING POINT: It didn’t take long. On the game’s first shift, Kings left wing Dustin Penner brought the puck down the left side and took a shot from the faceoff circle that sailed wide. Mike Richards blasted St. Louis center T.J. Oshie behind the net, and the puck squirted out to the right-wing boards. Penner then planted Kevin Shattenkirk into the glass and retrieved the puck. Penner managed to keep his body between Shattenkirk and the rubber as he skated toward the net along the icing line. He tried to shove the puck in the short side but it rebounded out to Richards, who scored from the slot for a 1-0 lead 31 seconds into the game. That seemed to break the seal, as the Kings scored three more unanswered goals in the opening period.
HOT: The Kings took a 2-0 lead on their second shorthanded goal of this series and fourth of the playoffs. Once again, Dustin Brown was in the middle of the play. Brown was pressuring Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo in the St. Louis zone. Colaiacovo tried to clear the puck, but it appeared to hit the shaft of Brown’s stick and kick sideways. Brown collected the puck, paused as Anze Kopitar skated into the center of the ice and put the pass on his stick. Kopitar did the rest, putting a move on goalie Brian Elliott to get him to sprawl and then sliding a shot along the goal line. The puck hit Elliott’s left skate and caromed into the net with 5:44 remaining in the first period. Brown has two shorthanded goals and two assists in these playoffs, the most points since Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings also had four in 2008. Oh, and the Kings proceeded to kill the penalty for their 20th straight kill against St. Louis this season and are 26-for-26 overall against the Blues' power play this season.
NOT: Elliott can’t be completely blamed for the defensive meltdown, though he hardly looks like the goalie who led the league in save percentage during the regular season. No, the players in front of him probably deserve just as much credit for this troubling start. After a dismal Game 1 by Shattenkirk, he was on the ice for two of the first four goals by the Kings. He also committed a roughing penalty on Richards seven minutes into the game, keeping the Blues on their heels after they had fallen behind, 1-0. Barret Jackman also contributed a pair of roughing penalties and a minus-3 rating.
GOOD MOVE: The Blues played without their top defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, who suffered an undisclosed injury when he was nudged into the boards by Kings rookie forward Dwight King in Game 1. B.J. Crombeen tried to incite King into fighting him in the final seconds of Game 1, but King didn’t oblige. King didn’t hesitate four minutes into Game 2, however, as Crombeen challenged him prior to a faceoff. King actually landed a few more blows than Crombeen and finished on top of him when both tumbled to the ice. Whether a veteran teammate on the Kings grabbed the rookie winger by the collar and reminded him to stand up for himself at some point is unknown, but the fact that King didn’t shy away from Crombeen’s second invitation should have drawn some inspiration on the bench. If the three goals the Kings scored during the remainder of the period was any indication, King won the momentum battle too.
BAD MOVE: It was probably unavoidable, given the large early deficit, but the Kings got caught up in the antics by St. Louis as the game worn on, creating a mule trail to the penalty box. The worst decision was Penner’s retaliation after taking a hard check from Oshie with about 12 ˝ minutes left in the game. Richards was in the process of fighting Oshie as a response to the hit, when Penner jumped into fray and put David Perron in a headlock. Good thing for the Kings it gave them another chance to score a shorthanded goal.
NOTABLE: Justin Williams and Jeff Carter scored their first goals of the playoffs, with Carter’s goal ending a 10-game playoff drought ... When on the penalty kill this postseason, the Kings have outscored their opponent, 4-3 ... The Blues are 1-16 in postseason history when falling behind 0-2. Their last comeback was in 1972.
UP NEXT: Game 3, Thursday at Staples Center, 7 p.m.