Last-minute goal has defending-champion L.A. Kings on ropes
|St. Louis Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo and Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar fight for the puck during NHL playoff action in St. Louis, Missouri, May 2, 2013. (REUTERS/Sarah Conard)
The defending Stanley Cup champions are on the rack.
They were strapped in by low-scoring defenceman Barret Jackman, who whipped a wrist shot to the top of the net at 19:09 of the third period to give the St. Louis Blues an emotional 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday. More importantly, it gave the Blues a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series.
The last-second win came on the heels of a stunning 2-1 overtime win in the series opener Tuesday.
This one appeared headed to overtime until Jackman’s rifle shot stunned the Kings, who are now in a position of having to win four-of-five for a chance to retain their title.
Like Game 1, this too was played on the edge,
In Game 1, the Kings appeared unprepared for the intensity of the Blues’ forechecking. In Game 2, a combination of the Blues not being as sharp and the Kings being better prepared allowed the defending champs to slow down the forechecking wingers. That allowed the under-attack Kings’ defence a little more time to move the puck.
It also didn’t hurt that the Blues were hyper-aggressive and took some bad penalties as referees Paul Devorski and Dan O’Halloran called it closely in an effort to keep a lid on the game.
The Blues took four penalties before the 10-minute mark of the first. Two were softies, including an after-the-whistle interference call on Barret Jackman gave the Kings a two-man advantage for 1:36.
It didn’t take long for the Kings to capitalize.
From the faceoff, the puck went back to Mike Richards and his shot hit Dustin Brown in front. Blues goalie Brian Elliott never saw the shot.
In Game 1, the Blues were able to create a lot of scoring opportunities with their pressure but quality chances were hard to come by early in Game 2.
Their best chance came late in the first when Jaden Schwartz took a cross-crease pass that looked to have Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick down and out. Schwartz couldn’t get all of the puck and Quick managed to slide across the crease and block the shot.
It was a good sign for the Kings.
Near the end of warm-up, Quick looked to have strained a groin or his back. He took a while to get up and left the ice in a bent-over position.
The Blues would have liked to have tested him a little more but there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with him on the Schwartz save. It was a beauty.
He made another game-changer in the second period when he looked down and out yet again. Alexander Steen had the top half of the net to shoot at. He got the puck up but Quick was quicker in getting his glove up and knocked the puck away. That was beauty No. 2.
The rest of the period looked pretty much like the first, with the Kings able to cut down the number of scoring chances the Blues had, allowing them only 15 shots on goal through two periods.
The Kings used the recipe that made them successful last year in the playoffs, one that was borrowed in the series opener by the Blues ... a hard forecheck.
The situation looked eerily similar to Tuesday night, with one team hanging onto a one-goal lead. But this time, the trailing team didn’t wait until the last minute to tie it up.
With just under four minutes gone in the third, Alex Pietrangelo threw a puck in front of the Kings’ net and Patrik Berglund had the puck go in off his skate.