Los Angeles Hockey: St. Louis Blues

Carter, Muzzin spark comeback vs. Blues

March, 5, 2013

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Carter scored the tiebreaking goal with 13:51 to play, and the Los Angeles Kings roared back from a three-goal deficit for their seventh win in eight games, 6-4 over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.

Click here for the full recap.

Carter's two goals help Kings silence Blues

February, 11, 2013

Jeff Carter scored twice for the first time since the Stanley Cup clincher, helping the Los Angeles Kings keep the slumping St. Louis Blues down with a 4-1 victory on Monday night.

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Kings: Plenty of rest for the weary

May, 24, 2012
Willie Mitchell Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesWillie Mitchell, the Kings' oldest player at 35, says the rest between series can only help his team.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings hit the fast-forward button through the first three rounds of the playoffs, becoming the seventh team since the league expanded its postseason format in 1987 to advance to the Stanley Cup finals in just 14 games.

One of the biggest carrots that comes with the 12-2 surge is plenty of rest and recovery from one series to the next.

Two days after the Kings eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 5 of their Western Conference final, most of the players were able to take another day off the ice Thursday.

Before the Stanley Cup finals begin May 30 in New York or New Jersey, the Kings will have had seven full days to get their legs refreshed, allow their bumps and bruises to heel and build some intelligence on their next opponent.

This comes after they enjoyed five days between games following their opening-round victory against the Vancouver Canucks, and six days to recuperate after their second-round sweep of the St. Louis Blues.

“What’s happened for this team, for now and forever, it’ll probably never happen again,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of the playoff spacing.

Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, the oldest player on the team at age 35, said the extra rest is a welcome reward for the team’s speedy run through the playoffs.

“It’s really nice,” he said. “Obviously, the wear and tear of competing at this time of year, it’s another level. … The checks that are made, the checks you’ve got to take and just the games are [played] at such a high level. It’s big. It allows the aches and pains we have, and the nicks, a little more time to rest and kind of go into the series being healthy.”

The only difference heading into this series is the Kings don’t quite know who they’ll be playing in the finals. There's no question which team will be more rested, however.

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Kings looking to maintain road success heading to Phoenix

May, 11, 2012
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. –The road has been anything but rocky for the Los Angeles Kings this postseason. They’ve won all five playoff games away from Staples Center during the first two rounds of the playoffs, including Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver and St. Louis, putting their opponents on their heels even before the series headed to L.A.

Does that give the Kings a statistical edge as they prepare to travel to Glendale, Ariz. for Game 1 of their Western Conference final Sunday evening against the Phoenix Coyotes? Probably not. But it sure helps with the comfort level.

“We’re just a comfortable team on the road in general,” said Mike Richards. “With a comfort level on the road, you can go there and steal one early.”

The success away from Staples Center during the playoffs actually dates back two years. They swiped away home ice in Game 2 the opening round of the 2010 playoffs against the Canucks before eventually losing in six games. They did the same against the San Jose Sharks last season before again losing in six games.

Overall, the Kings have won seven consecutive playoff games away from home, one shy of the NHL record set by the New Jersey Devils in the mid 1990s.

“Anytime you have success with something it feels a little bit more comfortable, for sure,” said Jarret Stoll. “It’s a new series, a new team, obviously, and whole new surroundings, so we’re going to have to make sure we’re on top of everything.”

Like the first two rounds of the playoffs, winning Game 1 can set the tone for the entire series.

“Game 1 is a huge advantage if you can find a way to win it,” team captain Dustin Brown said. “It’s one of those things where I think it seems comfortable on the road, in a sense that we know our system really well and we know what we need to do to be successful on the road.”

Jeff Carter has been staying with Richards, his former teammate with the Philadelphia Flyers, since he was traded to the Kings in late February. He looks forward to getting on a plane with his teammates, with nothing but hockey on their minds.

“It’s always nice to kind of get away,” Carter said. “When you’re at home, sometimes there are distractions and guys are dealing with stuff away from the rink.”

Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, on the other hand, didn’t seem too concerned where the series would start out. He’s just glad to be playing this far into the postseason after making just one other trip to the conference finals in his 12-year NHL career.

“I don’t care if it’s here, New York, Stockholm, sign me up,” he said. “The reality is, if you want to go to where you want to go, you’re going to have to win all different ways, all different situations. When you’re up in a series, down in a series, on the road, at home, overtime, whatever. You don’t make a long run without winning all these different ways.”

Mitchell compared winning Game 1 of a playoff series to winning the first period of a game. It’s a great start, but there’s still a lot to accomplish.

“It gets your feet underneath you and makes you feel good,” he said. “It starts you going in the right direction.”

Right now, that direction is about 350 miles east of L.A.

Kings: Tandem save preserves lead, empty-netter clinches series

May, 6, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- These weren’t just momentum changers, they were game savers.

Two plays that may stand out long after this postseason ends were the tandem save by Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and goalkeeper Jonathan Quick midway through the final period Sunday afternoon, and the empty-net goal by Dustin Brown in the closing seconds of Game 4, allowing the Kings to complete the sweep of the Western Conference semifinal with a 3-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues at Staples Center.

The Kings are through to the Western Conference finals for just the second time in franchise history, thanks to their first-ever sweep in a seven-game series. No other eighth-seeded team in NHL playoff history has eliminated both the No. 1 and 2 seeds in the same postseason.

“We knew all along we had this team in here to do it,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “Right now, we’re playing with a ton of confidence. Every single guy is having fun and every single guy is feeling part of the team, and that’s exactly what you need when you’re in the playoffs.”

The Kings dominated the opening period, but only came away with a 2-1 lead. They sat back in the second period, getting out-shot, 13-3, and that momentum change carried over to the third.

With just under 10 minutes remaining in the game, it appeared the Blues would finally get even. St. Louis forward David Perron shot into a crowd of players from about seven feet out. The puck glanced off some traffic and was re-directed toward the goal line. Quick dove to his left like a shortstop desperately trying to glove a grounder up the middle, but appeared to be too late. Ready to shove the puck across the goal line regardless was St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was the first to converge on the crease.

Out of nowhere, Kopitar reached out with his stick and pushed the puck into the body of Quick as he lay prone on the ice. Quick covered it with his glove and held on as bodies piled on top.

“That’s a game saver right there,” Quick said. “That’s in the net if he doesn’t get there and block it.”

All Kopitar remembered was the puck sliding in slow motion towards the goal line.

“I just stuck my stick in there and was able to get a piece of it and kind of squeeze it underneath Quickie,” Kopitar said. “He was right there with his glove to cover it up.”

A sigh of relief seemed to rise above the noise inside Staples Center, but the game was hardly over. Inspired by the crowd, the Kings picked up the pace and pressured the St. Louis goal long enough to keep the Blues from pulling goalie Brian Elliott until about 45 seconds remained. That was enough time for Kopitar and Brown to find some room on a breakout. Kopitar slid the puck to Brown and he pocketed his second goal of the game and sixth of the playoffs with 24 seconds remaining.

Teammates throughout their careers in the NHL, Kopitar leaped into the arms of Brown and both tumbled to the ice in ecstasy.

“I knew it was over,” Brown said. “Kopi was probably a little more excited than me. I don’t think he realized how big he was. He jumped two feet in the air.”

On the other end of the ice, Quick felt like he could finally exhale.

“When we scored that empty netter there, that kind of put the nail in the coffin,” he said. “We could finally take a deep breath out and relax a little bit.”

Brown said the team will enjoy the victory tonight and take tomorrow off to recover, but then it’s back to the drawing board Tuesday. The Kings will play the winner of the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators. The Coyotes lead that series, 3-1, with a chance to clinch Monday in Phoenix.

“We’ll enjoy tonight but again, we don’t want to be known as the team that made it past the second round,” Brown said.

Kings: No goals in second period as L.A. still leads, 2-1

May, 6, 2012
Western Conference semifinals

Game 4 (Kings lead the series, 3-0)

After the 2nd period:

Kings 2, St. Louis Blues 1

The good: About the only thing the Kings accomplished in the second period was maintaining their one-goal lead. They were out-shot, 13-3, in the middle frame and only a few quality saves by Jonathan Quick and some timely clearing passes kept the Blues from tying the score. The Kings haven’t put two bad periods together in a while, so they have that going for them.

The bad: For whatever reason, the Kings seemed content to sit out their lead. Either that or St. Louis decided it was time to play. Jeff Carter looks like he might of overslept. He couldn’t corral a centering pass in the opening period that left nothing but open ice between him and goalie Brian Elliott, and he’s made some stretch passes that looked like he forgot what team he was on. This is his third team in 10 months, so maybe that was the case. Slava Voynov took L.A.’s first shot on net 8:19 into the period, and the Kings didn’t get another until Anze Kopitar’s weak backhand went straight into Elliott’s pad with 1:25 left in the period. Kopitar had the option of taking a hard wrister from the right faceoff circle or passing to Dustin Brown on his left, but did neither. The other shot on goal came from 76 feet out by Trevor Lewis as time expired.

The in between: The Kings are holding their own in most areas. They’re 19-17 in the faceoff circle, led by Kopitar at 7-4. They’ve been out-hit, 35-33, and have nine giveaways, compared to five for the Blues.

Kings: Dustin Brown, Jordan Nolan score for 2-1 lead

May, 6, 2012
Western Conference semifinals

Game 4 (Kings lead the series, 3-0)

After the 1st period:

Kings 2, St. Louis Blues 1

The good: After the Kings couldn’t produce on the game’s first power play, a makeshift line of Dustin Penner, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan were on the ice. The Blues had possession deep in their zone when a pass behind the net went off the stick of Blues defenseman Roman Polak and came right in front of the net. Penner and Fraser converged and took swipes at the bouncing rubber. Penner got just enough of the puck to get it to rookie Nolan, who planted it in the left side of the net for a 1-0 lead and his first career playoff goal. The Kings continued their trend of answering every St. Louis push with a shove of their own. After the Blues tied the score, Dustin Brown took back the lead with 1:43 left in the period. Brown, who missed two golden scoring opportunities earlier in the period, brought the puck down the left side and fired a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott up high on his glove side, continuing a rocky series for the Blues netminder. The Kings out-shot the Blues, 10-4, holding St. Louis to one shot on net the first 11:17.

The bad: St. Louis caught the Kings on a partial shift change after they didn’t get the puck deep enough. Matt Greene recognized the situation and stayed on the ice, but Kevin Shattenkirk still had an angle to shoot from after he brought the puck into the offensive zone. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick left an inch on the far post and, to Shattenkirk’s credit, he managed to bank the puck off the iron and into the net with 8:26 left in the period. Game 4 of the Vancouver series started in a similar way. The Kings had a chance to finish the sweep at home, took a 1-0 first-period lead but failed to capitalize on a number of early scoring opportunities. The Canucks eventually tied the score in the second period and went on to win, 3-1. Brown made sure that scenario didn’t play out again. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who had four turnovers in the first period of Game 3, had two more in the first 20 minutes of Game 4.

The in between: St. Louis forward Chris Stewart is still in the lineup and it’s pretty clear why. Stewart, who knocked Kings forward Kyle Clifford out for two games last season after landing a huge right hand, decided to take on Nolan. Good thing for the rookie, they grabbed with their right hands and threw with their lefts, or Nolan could have ended up in the training room as well.

Kings: Sweep smell of victory fills the air

May, 5, 2012
Drew DoughtyHarry How/Getty ImagesDrew Doughty has been receiving high praise from the opposing coach as well as the public.
Western Conference semifinals

Game 4, Kings vs. St. Louis Blues at Staples Center, noon (Kings lead series, 3-0)

Five storylines to track:

1. Broom town -- Sure, the Kings are up 3-0 for the second straight series, skating on home ice with another chance to sweep one of the top teams from the regular season. But a different aura surrounds this Game 4. It’s a sense of confidence, of domination and, yeah, the Blues are proving to be a lot more inferior than the Canucks. The St. Louis defense has more holes than an old pair of jeans, and goalie Brian Elliott is nowhere near the final obstacle that Cory Schneider proved to be in the Vancouver series. Throw in an offense that has been completely flummoxed by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and the recipe is ripe for a fourth straight victory.

2. Popular demand -- Kings defenseman Drew Doughty went to the Angels game Friday night, not to root for the home team but to support his beloved Toronto Blue Jays. Apparently, he and teammate Trevor Lewis were big hits with the crowd, going so far as to say it was the most attention they’ve received in public. The Kings have become part of the raging sports landscape in Southern California, right along with the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers and, to a lesser degree, the Angels. The volume should only increase if the Kings can advance to the Western Conference finals for just the second time in franchise history. That could go a long way toward keeping the Kings in the mainstream sports conversation beyond this spring.

3. Earning his keep -- St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock had the highest praise for Doughty following practice Saturday. He said the 22-year-old blueliner has been the best player in the series, a compliment that goes a long way considering how well Quick has played. Doughty had a backbreaking goal in the third period of Game 3 after earning a pair of assists earlier in the contest. The regular season didn’t unfold for Doughty quite the way many expected. He remained unsigned during training camp while negotiating the highest-paid contract on the team, and came up far short of the offensive numbers he produced two years ago, a watermark his representatives used in negotiations. It’s amazing how easily those shortfalls can be forgotten in the haze a standout playoff performance.

4. Power please -- The Kings ended an 0-for-30 skid on the power play in Game 3, getting a second-period goal from Mike Richards. They’re 4-for-42 overall in these playoffs, a percentage that normally wouldn’t hold up this long into the postseason. But the Kings have made up for some of their special teams futility by going 32-for-35 on the penalty kill and scoring four short-handed goals. A power-play goal or two in Game 4 could go a long way toward getting the Kings back on track, and maybe even help clinch this series.

5. Changing Blues -- The Blues can’t replace Elliott because their backup, Jaroslav Halak, is sidelined because of a sprained ankle, so they’re benching defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and replacing him with Ian Cole, and scratching winger B.J. Crombeen in place of Ryan Reaves, who’s best known in L.A. for dropping Kings forward Kyle Clifford in a one-punch fight last season. Let’s face it, the Blues don’t have that golden ticket waiting to be found. Vancouver swapped goalies after the first two losses against the Kings, and that did little to stem the tide.

Kings: Players appreciate Darryl Sutter's bag of tricks

May, 4, 2012
Darryl SutterAndrew D. Bernstein/NHLI/Getty ImagesOne thing Darryl Sutter has helped with is to get his players to be emotionally attached to games.

EL SEGUNDO -- As the Kings gathered for a meeting in their downtown hotel Wednesday night, the eve of Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues at Staples Center, someone in the room mentioned the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers were headed to overtime in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

From the group came this slip of the tongue.

“Was it tied?’ ” coach Darryl Sutter recalled Friday morning.

Of course, the question didn’t draw an answer, but rather a burst of laughter, something that was repeated when Sutter retold the story following the 4-2 victory the night before, giving the Kings a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“That was awesome,” Sutter said of the spontaneous humor, which broke up the otherwise serious business of trying to advance to the Western Conference finals for the just the second time in franchise history.

The Kings can get there with a victory Sunday at noon in Game 4 at Staples Center.

Sutter has been at the controls since just before Christmas, taking over for Terry Murray, who set the formula in place but was unable to stir the drink. Sutter has definitely brought his own motivational tools. A dry humor just happens to be one of them.

“He pushes the right buttons,” said team captain Dustin Brown. “One problem we had as a team before he got here was getting emotionally attached to games. He brought that emotional level up. You can do all the Xs and Os right, but if you’re not emotionally attached, it’s real hard to win in this league.”

Brown said Sutter accomplishes that by grinding players to get better everyday, but also knowing when to pat them on the back.

It doesn’t hurt to interject a light-hearted moment along the way.

There was the April Fools joke he pulled on the Kings the day after they returned from a four-game road trip, one that all but clinched their third consecutive playoff berth. As they departed the plane, they were handed a long itinerary for the next day, a Sunday. The last item on the agenda was a meeting at Sutter’s house in the South Bay.

“Drew [Doughty] asked for his address,” Brown remembered.

Doughty, the 22-year-old defenseman who was nominated for the Norris Trophy two years ago following his stellar sophomore season in the NHL, has felt the wrath of Sutter, but also experienced the warmth.

“He’s great on both ends,” Doughty said. “He likes to have fun at the right times, but for the most part he’s serious and wants you well prepared.”

Doughty talked about Game 4 of the first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, the only game the Kings have lost in these playoffs. He stepped into a side room during one of the intermissions to grab drink, noticed something on a television screen and paused to watch.

Sutter walked into the room right then and spotted Doughty eyeing the TV screen. He scolded him like a teenager caught raiding the refrigerator in the middle of the night.

“I make sure not to go in there anymore,” Doughty said of the side room.

On more than one occasion, Doughty said he has been in conversation with Sutter and didn’t know whether he was joking or not.

“I kind of wait for him to smile . . . after he says whatever he has to say,” Doughty said. “I don’t want to be laughing when he’s serious.”

There was definitely a getting-to-know-you period with Sutter, who had been out of coaching for 5 years when he got the call from Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, asking if he’d like to team up again. They had worked together in San Jose a decade earlier.

Sutter’s low, mumbling speech pattern was the first characteristic the players struggled to decipher.

“I couldn’t understand anything he was saying when he first came,” Doughty said. “I always made sure, when drills were happening, to be at the back of the line.”

The Kings have gotten over that hump and learned to understand, appreciate and respect what Sutter has to offer. It’s a marriage that couldn’t have come together at a better time.

And who knows, the honeymoon might just last a few more weeks.

Kings: When push comes to shove, L.A. knows how to respond

May, 3, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- The goal was a microcosm of how the postseason has unfolded for the Kings.

The St. Louis Blues had scored 4½ minutes into the third period Thursday night to cut the deficit to one in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal.

Pinned in his own end, Jeff Carter made a deft chip pass as the puck skimmed along the wall and toward the blue line. That allowed teammate Mike Richards to maintain his speed with nothing but open ice in his path.

He raced into the offensive zone, paused with the puck for what seemed like a coffee break, then slid a perfect centering pass to defenseman Drew Doughty, who was barreling into the offensive zone. Doughty did the rest, sending the puck rocketing into the pads of St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott, which then trickled out the back side and across the goal line.

Just like that, the Blues were back on their heels.

The Kings didn’t allow St. Louis any more prime scoring opportunities after that, holding on for a 4-2 victory at Staples Center that gave them a commanding 3-0 series lead with Game 4 back on home ice Sunday at noon.

“It was a big goal,” said Doughty, who also had two assists. “They had just scored to make it 3-2 and Richards made an unbelievable play. Not too many forwards can see that. He was almost two zones ahead of me when I first starting skating, and for him to know I was going to be joining and for him to stop up and make that feed, that was a great job by him.”

Richards, as usual, deflected praise to Carter for getting the play started.

“He did a good job chipping the puck on the wall,” Richards said. “The hardest plays as a winger are when the puck is rimming and you have that defense pounding down on you, and he did a good job chipping it by him. I just gave it to Dewey and he did the rest.”

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Kings: Dwight King, Mike Richards score for 3-1 lead after two

May, 3, 2012
Western Conference Semifinal

Game 3 (Kings lead the Series, 2-0)

After the 2nd period:

Kings 3, St. Louis Blues 1

The good: Forty seconds after the Blues tied the score, Kings defenseman Matt Greene made a nice bank pass off the boards to rookie right wing Dwight King, who sent a laser from the right faceoff circle over the right leg of goalie Brian Elliott and into the far side of the net for a 2-1 lead. It was a similar response as Game 2, when the Blues scored just after the first intermission to cut the deficit to 4-1, but the Kings answered less than a minute later. King has been a key figure in the series, from the shove he put on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo that knocked him out of Game 2 to his first career playoff point that could stand up as the game winner tonight. The Kings then ended an 0-for-30 drought on the power play when Mike Richards reached into his bag of tricks and took a shot from just above the goal line with the intention of banking it through Elliott’s legs. Richards used the same move in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Canucks, and Elliott must not have seen that tape because it was a carbon-copy goal for a 3-1 lead. Dustin Brown continues to get under the skin of the Blues. He drew the game’s first three penalties on the Blues, all retaliatory penalties that went unanswered by Brown.

The bad: The Kings gave up a goal early in the second period for the second straight game to put their fans on the edge of their seats, if only briefly. This time, the Kings got caught on a change and defenseman Roman Polak lit up Kings center Anze Kopitar to free the puck. Kris Russell recovered and fed right wing Chris Stewart, who beat three Kings to the net before shoveling a backhander by Jonathan Quick on the short side. Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov looked especially porous on the play.

The in between: The Kings out-shot the Blues, 10-6, in the period to take and 18-10 edge heading into the final period. Look for the Blues to try and get the Kings off their game with some after-the-whistle antics. It’s important the Kings remember what happened in Game 2. After all, they only have a two-goal lead heading into the third period, not four like they did in Game 2.

Kings: Justin Williams scores for 1-0 first-period lead

May, 3, 2012
Western Conference Semifinal

Game 3 (Kings lead the Series, 2-0)

After the 1st period:

Kings 1, St. Louis Blues 0

The good: After dominating most of the period, the Kings were finally rewarded with 6:27 remaining. Justin Williams brought the puck down the right side with speed, pulled a bullfighter move on a hip check by St. Louis defenseman Vladimir Sobatka and then stopped and circled around in the right faceoff circle. He dumped the puck off to Anze Kopitar, who cycled the puck to Drew Doughty, who gave it back to Williams. He took a shot from just inside the right dot as St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott sprawled with Dustin Brown lurking near the far post. Elliott was defenseless to stop the puck as it banked off the lower half of his body and past the goal line. Williams has goals in back-to-back playoff games. ... The penalty kill continues to be sharp for the Kings, snuffing out the only power play of the period to improve to 27-for-27 this season against the Blues.

The bad: The Kings received two power plays of their own but only managed a combined one shot on goal. Getting shots hasn’t been a problem for the Kings, but putting them on net has been a struggle. They were credited with eight shots on goal in the period but 12 others were off target and six more were blocked. By comparison, the Blues took just four shots on goal, including none on their power play, only two shots were off target and three were blocked. The Kings also had a rough start in the faceoff circle, losing nine of the first 12 draws, but finished 9-for-21 in the period. Doughty got the primary assist on the goal, but also missed a wide open redirection earlier in the period and had a sky-high four giveaways.

The in between: Kings second-line center Mike Richards dropped the gloves and fought St. Louis alternate captain Jamie Langenbrunner six minutes into the game. It was hardly a scripted bout, as both hammered away at each other with their sticks for a few seconds before dropping the gloves. Richards was much more active in the scrap, even knocking Langenbrunner into the wall with a left hook, but Richards ended up getting an extra two minutes for slashing. Richards is too valuable of a player for the Kings to be sitting in the penalty box for five minutes, but he did seem to incite his teammates even more. ... Brown wasn't credited with any hits in the period, though he did lay a lick on St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo just as the puck flew out of play. Pietrangelo is in his first game back after missing Game 2 following face-to-face meeting with the end boards.

Kings: Will Game 3 be more like Round 3?

May, 3, 2012
Western Conference Semifinals

Game 3 (Kings lead series, 2-0)

Kings vs. St. Louis Blues at Staples Center, 7 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Ding, ding, ding – Anyone who watched the last two periods of Game 2 probably wondered if they were viewing playoff hockey or some sort of Wrestlemania on Ice. After the Kings took a 4-0 lead in the opening period, the game disintegrated into a series of after-the-whistle scrums. There were 14 roughing penalties, five 10-minute misconducts and, as Dustin Penner described, a rear-naked chokehold that he applied on David Perron. Will the Kings get coerced into those antics in Game 3? After all, those were the two best periods by St. Louis in this series. The Kings would be better served to avoid falling into that trap. Their penalty-kill unit has been outstanding against the Blues this season, 26-for-26 to be exact, but even that has a shelf life if left on the ice too long.

2. Pietrangelo to return – Similar to what the Canucks went through with Daniel Sedin in the first-round series, the Blues are hoping defenseman Alex Pietrangelo will provide a much-needed lift after missing Game 2 with an undisclosed injury. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after the morning skate that Pietrangelo will play in Game 3. He leads the team in ice time, is a rock on the special teams and might just be the best player for St. Louis. Of course, Sedin meant just as much to the Canucks, but he wasn’t able to accomplish anything more than keeping Vancouver from getting swept.

3. On your marks – You can almost bank on the Blues treating the first period like a 100-meter dash, similar to what they displayed in Game 1 (and the opposite of how they played in Game 2). St. Louis is a desperate hockey team and they can’t afford to give L.A. another inch. The Kings scored 31 seconds into Game 2 and never looked back. L.A. shouldn’t be surprised by what they see in the first period, but how they react could go a long way toward determining the result. Jonathan Quick bailed them out with several spectacular saves early in Game 1, but the Kings would probably rather counter the Blues with some speed and tenacity of their own. Either way, don’t expect the score to get one-sided early on for a second straight game.

4. Better than nothing – He didn’t give the universal A-OK symbol when asked about his ankle following Game 2, but Jeff Carter at less than 100 percent is still better than most NHL forwards. He missed the final five games of the regular season with a deep bone bruise and wasn’t much of a factor in the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. Carter scored his first playoff goal in 10 games in Game 2, however, a patented wrist shot that hit the net before most even saw it leave his blade. With linemates Mike Richards and Penner playing at a high level, a productive Carter will make things even tougher on the Blues, who are finding it difficult to match up against the Kings top two lines.

5. Clifford getting close – Out since Game 1 of the Vancouver series after an illegal hit by a vagabond forward, Kings fourth-liner Kyle Clifford is getting close to returning from a concussion. Kings coach Darryl Sutter will face a tough decision if that time comes tonight. Brad Richardson has stepped in nicely for Clifford, scoring the third-period tying goal in the series-clinching overtime victory against the Canucks. The fourth line has also been playing as well as any of the forward trios, and breaking up that combination now would be a gamble. Look for Clifford to remain out until the Kings clinch the series, or another forward gives Sutter a good reason to replace him in the lineup.

Kings: Game 2 victory wasn't all that grand

May, 1, 2012

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Kings made it back to Southern California with all their limbs intact. They undoubtedly sported a few bumps and bruises when they met for an off-ice workout Tuesday at Toyota Sports Center, but apparently nothing more significant following their 5-2 victory Monday against the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal.

Their on-ice behavior, on the other hand, could probably use a good tape job heading into Game 3.

What began as a remarkable four-goal barrage by the Kings in the opening period deteriorated into a penalty-plagued grudge match, one that the Kings were baited into by the desperate and disgruntled Blues. The Kings were outshot 24-5 after the first period while piling up 42 penalty minutes.

With a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 on Thursday at Staples Center, the Kings realize they need to regain their poise if they hope to finish off the second-seeded Blues.

“We had the start we wanted, but you want to stay consistent, obviously, and play like that for 60 minutes,” said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who scored two first-period goals. “There’s room for improvement, and we have to be ready for everything in Game 3.”

Those who played for the Kings last season were cognizant of the four-goal lead they gave away against the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of those Western Conference quarterfinals, turning the series around. That comeback was partly spurred by a needless roughing penalty on Dustin Penner, leading to the second of five goals in the second period.

In a much more reckless way, the Kings gave the Blues six power plays after the opening period of Game 2 but were fortunate St. Louis couldn't capitalize.

“We saw the lapse we had last year in the playoffs against San Jose, when we let them come back and win,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We have to make sure, if we get up to a lead like that again, we aren’t giving them those chances to get back in the game.”

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he didn’t consider Game 2 to be an overly physical contest, but rather compared it to the penalty-marred first-round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

“It was just stuff after the whistle,” he said. “It looks like a lack of discipline.”

(Read full post)

Kings: First-period barrage lifts L.A. to 2-0 series lead

April, 30, 2012
Western Conference Semifinals

Game 2

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.