Kings put fear of sod in Blues

Kings forward Dustin Brown pushes Blues forward Patrik Berglund during Game 3 of their NHL Western...

Kings forward Dustin Brown pushes Blues forward Patrik Berglund during Game 3 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal series at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., May 3, 2012. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:58 AM ET

LOS ANGELES - The St. Louis Blues have maintained from the start, and through 1-0 and 2-0 series deficits, that they weren’t afraid of anything the Los Angeles Kings could throw at them.

Well, the Kings put the fear of sod in them Thursday night.

One more loss and the Blues are golfing.

After watching L.A. walk over St. Louis in the first three games of this best-of-seven series 3-1, 5-2 and 4-2 Thursday, it’s only a matter of time until the Blues' season is over.

“It feels good,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said after a convincing triumph at the Staples Center. “As a group of guys we’ve stayed focused and worked hard. Tonight was probably one of our strongest games; we didn’t give up much. We’ll enjoy this, but three games don’t make a series.”

Yes it does, actually.

Whether L.A. puts the Blues out of their misery in Game 4 Sunday or drags this out a few more days like a cat with a half-dead mouse, the end is coming. The Kings look that good.

“The one thing that stands out for me in the playoffs so far is we’ve had different guys step up at different times,” Brown said. “We’re not a team that’s going to be winning games with just one line scoring. We have to have contributions from everyone. Tonight we got big games from some of our top guys.”

While the Kings are rocking, getting big games from their best players -- Mike Richards had a Gordie Howe hat trick Thursday -- it has all gone wrong for St. Louis. Through 32 minutes, the Blues had seven shots on net while their goaltending, the backbone of their success, is in shambles. Jaroslav Halak is injured and done for the season and Brian Elliott is getting shakier by the game.

“It’s more of the same,” sighed Blues captain David Backes. “We’re against a team that’s playing well, playing together as a team, and we’re in for a while and out for a while, in for a while. The top end guys need to win their match ups and we need to be better on special teams all around to give ourselves a fighting chance.

“We need to reflect, look at what we accomplished this year and know that when we play well we’re even, if not better than this team, but we need to come together and make a push.”

The early, desperate surge everyone expected from a cornered Blues team never came Thursday. There was no storm for the Kings to weather.

Instead, like they did in the first period of Game 2 and the final 40 minutes of Game 1, the Kings looked bigger and stronger and faster and better, leading 1-0 entering the first intermission Thursday on a Justin Williams goal at 13:33.

Had they finished their early changes Thursday, it would have looked a lot like the first period landslide in Game 2 where L.A. scored four goals. The Kings had all kinds of zone time and several really good looks Thursday, but had to settle for a 1-0 lead at the intermission on a Justin Williams goal at 13:33.

After regrouping between periods, St. Louis tied it at 1:13 of the second on Chris Stewart’s short-side backhand. But before the equalizer had even been announced, L.A.'s Dwight King, of all people, scored on a breakaway and the Blues were behind again.

For the second time after the last three St. Louis goals, L.A. responded with one of their own less than 90 seconds later.

Then, the killer.

With St. Louis' Jamie Langenbrunner serving an interference penalty taken at the offensive blueline, Richards made it 3-1 L.A. late in the second, scoring on an angle so sharp he nearly cut himself.

When Stewart’s second of the night with 15:25 left in the third period closed it to 3-2 and cranked up the drama, the Kings did what they always do.

It took a whole three minutes this time, but L.A. answered back. Richards, who had a first period fight with Langenbrunner, set up Drew Doughty, who put a 40-foot shot through an unscreened Elliott’s five-hole.

“Tough way to go,” Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “We have two days to buckle down and get our minds right. We want to take this back to St. Louis. Win Sunday, go back to St. Louis, get some energy from our fans and see what happens. I think we’re close.”

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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