|Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) makes a diving save on St. Louis Blues' David Backes during NHL playoff action in St. Louis, April 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Sarah Conard)
It appears it’s going to take a lot more than a goofy overtime goal for the St. Louis Blues to upset the defending Stanley Cup champions.
After the emotional rollercoaster that included tying Tuesday’s playoff opener in the last minute and then losing it on a weird shorthanded goal in overtime, it was business as usual for the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday.
The Reader’s Digest version goes like this.
Kings forward Justin Williams ties the game 1-1 with 32 seconds left after Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stood on his head for three periods. In overtime, Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk gets called for a four-minute high-sticking penalty, giving the Kings a chance to win. The puck goes behind the Kings’ net and Quick tries to get it by Alexander Steen, who knocks it down, swivels in front and scores into the empty net.
The Blues celebrate like crazy and the Kings head off somewhat shocked at the sudden ending.
“There’s no issue with Jonathan,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said when asked how he expected Quick to bounce back. “You can say he made a mistake but he was trying to make a play. He was buying some time. Steen made a good play knocking the puck down. The best two players on the ice were Steen and Quick. I don’t think either one is talking about bouncing back today.”
That was the message in the Kings’ dressing room. Despite the fact the Kings broke out to 3-0 lead in each of their first three playoff series last year, dropping the first game this time was just one of those things.
“(Quick’s) really good. We’re all good,” Kings defenceman Drew Doughty said. “(Quick) was pretty much the reason we made it to overtime. No one is blaming him for that loss.”
So with Quick absolved, the biggest reason for the Kings’ loss was the heavy forechecking and physical play from the Blues.
That is something L.A. is going to have to address or face the prospect of going down two games. It caused them grief, especially when the Kings’ fourth line of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves was on the ice.
They were like meat grinders gone wild, bottling up the Kings for long periods of time.
When the Kings used playoff novices Jake Muzzin and Keaton Ellerby on the blueline, the Blues really went to work.
“It was really both their first playoff game and as a pair early in the game it looked like it was their first game,” Sutter said. “That’s not a criticism. As the game got on, they both played a lot better. But at the same time it put a lot of pressure on the other four guys early and it’s why we spent so much time in our own zone early.”
It wasn’t just the youngsters who felt the Blues buzzing heat.
“(The game) was really going,” Doughty said. “Whenever I got the puck in the (defensive) zone, I never really had a lot of time to make the play. In the neutral zone you have a little more time but everything was happening so quick. You make one play, you need to make the other right away or else you had no time. It created a lot of little turnovers.”
Sutter called on his own team to return the favour.
“How do you counter that?” he said. “The boys that play on our fourth line have to play like big boys.”
The opener was a snapshot of what everyone pretty much expected of this series — physical, hardworking no-nonsense hockey with not much to separate the two teams.
When that’s the case, it often comes down to intangibles, such as which team is willing to go that little extra to win.
In Game 1, that intangible belonged to the Blues.