May 7, 2013
Blues let Kings bounce up off the mat
St. Louis can't KO Los Angeles on the road
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

Kings forward Kyle Clifford puts pressure on Blues goaltender Brian Elliott during Game 3 of their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, May 4, 2013. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)

ST. LOUIS - This series between the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings is like a classic boxing tale.

You know, the one where the champion is nearly down and out and the opponent takes a moment to admire his work. Then all of a sudden, biff, boom, zowie, kaboom and the challenger is waking up in the dressing room wondering what happened while the champ is shining up his belt.

The Blues admired their work a little too soon and have now given the Kings more than a puncher’s chance to continue defending their Stanley Cup championship.

The sudden turnaround in this series has made Wednesday’s Game 5 between the Kings and Blues a must-win for St. Louis.

The Blues took a 2-0 lead over the Kings last week in their best-of-seven NHL Western Conference quarterfinal and were confident they’d gotten rid of the stink from last year when the Kings swept them in the second round.

But after dropping Games 3 and 4 in L.A., the Blues come home with their tails firmly between their legs.


They had the champs on the ropes and let them off.

The Blues' biggest letdown was in Game 4 where the Blues led 2-0 and 3-2 before losing 4-3.

Considering how much of a premium goals have been in this series – the Kings only scored three goals in the previous three games – blowing that kind of lead is going to be difficult for the Blues to get over.

“They took the game to another level and we didn’t have an answer,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “We made two mistakes, two really poor mistakes to give them odd-man rushes to get them back in the game, but even when it was 3-2, they were playing better than we were … We didn’t manage the puck very well in the second and third period really at all, and paid for it dearly.”

Not only will the Blues have to battle their own growing doubts, they’ll have to battle several Kings players who appear to have come out of hibernation.

Anze Kopitar scored his first goal in 19 games Monday. Jeff Carter, who has not only had trouble scoring but also getting good chances, scored as well.

“Whenever you break a drought it feels like a weight is off your shoulders,” Kopitar said. “The resilience of our team is amazing. It shows what we are capable of doing.”

There hasn’t been much to choose from between these two teams in this series. When the Blues won the first two games at home many people believed they were headed to a series win. Those people didn’t count on how hard a King fights to keep its kingdom.

“You play all of last season and all of this season to build confidence in yourselves for situations like this,” said Kings forward Mike Richards. “They've got a great team over there and there’s a lot of similarities between us. It’s the smallest things that make the difference.”

Being a defending champion is one of them.

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