ST. LOUIS - An evening that began with tornado warnings, 100 km-h wind gusts and egg-sized hail in St. Louis didn’t settle down much when the puck dropped.
The fired up Blues stormed Los Angeles like they were the Edmund Fitzgerald, firing about six shots on net before the anthem singer was even off the ice, but the Kings weathered the frantic early moments, launched a counter-attack of their own and rained all over the home town parade.
The California giant killers, after dispatching the No.1 team in the Western Conference last round, have stolen home ice advantage from No.2 in this one, posting a 3-1 series opening victory at the Scottrade Centre.
“It’s just hard work,” said LA captain Dustin Brown, after the Kings posted their sixth consecutive road playoff victory dating back to last season. “Our PK was big tonight, our 5-on-5 was big and we got a couple of big saves, especially early. Our goalie really helped us weather that early storm.”
So the Blues, who were 30-6-5 at home this year, will now have to play catch up.
“The first period is exactly what we needed, we played a great first period,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose club scored first and threatened to run away with things. “Then we kind of exited the game after that.
“When you play LA there’s a price to pay to win. There’s a high price. If we expect to win the next game we’re going to have to pay a bigger price than the one we paid.”
The Blues were ferocious at the start and looked like they were trying to end this thing early, and might have, too, had it not been for the valiant work of netminder Jonathan Quick. He simply refused to let the game get away from them.
“They’re one of the best teams in the league on home ice for a reason and that first 10 minutes shows you why,” said Quick. “They put us on our heels, but you need your goalie to make a couple of saves for you on the road, it’s something that you kind of expect to do, you feel you need to do it.”
It was 1-1 late in the second on goals from Slava Voynov and David Perron when a St. Louis power play that had been so good for them against San Jose, (6-for-18) let them down in a big way. After going 0-for-2 on its first two chances, it gave up a shorthanded goal to stay at home defenceman Greene to trail 2-1 at the second intermission.
“I was a bit surprised when I turned around and Greene was celebrating behind the net,” said Brown. “We’re shorthanded and Greener hardly even jumps up five-on-five.”
“I took a chance,” said Greene, whose shocker was just the second shorthanded goal by a defenceman in Kings playoff history. “And the puck was just laying there. Its’ definitely a great feeling to be able to chip in and help out.”
The sequence was doubly-bad for St. Louis as the power play came on a boarding penalty to King that knocked Pietrangelo from the game.
He’s out with what looks like a concussion issue, but the Blues won’t make a diagnosis till Sunday.
Bad news all around. But the Blues lost Game 1 of their last series, too, and it worked out OK, so there is no sense of panic in the room.
“Personally, I feel that we didn’t play anywhere close to where we can play,” said McDonald. “We had a good first period and that was it. Not to take anything away from them, they play hard and they have a good team, but I feel we have a lot more.
“I don’t think anybody in here is worried or down about our chances, we just have to get rested up and make improvements.”
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