It seems appropriate that a pivotal Game 5 between two evenly matched teams would go to overtime, but thanks to a goal by Slava Voynov eight minutes into the extra session, the Los Angeles Kings beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Now, the Kings will have an opportunity to close out the series in Game 6 on Friday night at Staples Center, but the real story is how several key players from the Kings have finally shown signs of life, and it is that resurrection of talent that has the Kings one game away from advancing in a hard fought series.
Leading that group is center Jeff Carter. In the first three games of the series, he was a total non-entity, but in his last two games, he has been skating with more intensity and has been getting to the front of the net with regularity. The results of that effort speak for themselves, as he has three goals and six shots on goal in the two games, both of which were wins for the Kings.
The other player who is re-emerging in his role is Anze Kopitar. He is one of the best facilitators in the game, able to thread great passes to set up scoring opportunities for his teammates. He finally broke a 20 game scoring drought in Game 4 of the series, but it was his two assists that really stood out in his 23:52 of ice time. The second one of those came on the final 3-on-2 rush for the Kings, when he feathered a pass onto the stick of Voynov, who deposited the goal past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, who played the puck in slightly unorthodox fashion, much to the detriment of his team’s playoff chances.
He also blocked four shots and dished out three hits, thus living up to his well-earned reputation as one of the best two-way centers in the game.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Kings in this game, however. Jonathan Quick gave up a late goal for the second time in this series, allowing Alex Pietrangelo to tie the contest with 45 seconds left in the third period. Quick also allowed Barrett Jackman to beat him glove side in the waning seconds of Game 2, but fortunately for him, this lapse in net did not cost his team the game.
In addition, the Kings ended up playing an incredibly passive game after Carter’s power play goal in the opening seconds of the third period. In fact, they pulled back the attack dogs so much that they only ended up with three shots on goal in the period, giving the Blues free rein on the ice to dictate the tempo and to generate as many chances as possible.
That kind of strategy is fine when your team is up by two or three goals, but when a group is only up by a goal in a crucial playoff game, trying to run away and hide with a game rarely works out to a team’s advantage.
Despite this lapse in intensity in the third period, the ultimate takeaway from this game should be the improved performances of the team’s key cogs, because if they are able to advance on Friday night, then they are going to need those guys to succeed moving forward.