Despite going down 2-0 early against the St. Louis Blues, the Los Angeles Kings roared back and tied up their best-of-seven series by winning 4-3 at Staples Center on Monday night.
Justin Williams netted the game winner when he deflected a shot from Mike Richards with 11 minutes left in the game, and Jonathan Quick made 19 saves en route to the Kings’ second straight victory.
The start of the first period of this hockey game played out like most of the other frames in this series. The Blues were dominating the puck possession game, outhitting the Kings, and winning puck battles all over the ice. The Kings looked a step slow in just about every facet of the game, and they were picked apart for two early goals by the Blues.
After those two early goals, however, everything changed. The impetus behind this shift in momentum was not Quick, as one would’ve expected from his stellar play in the first three games, but instead it was the team’s core of veteran forwards. Jeff Carter was the beneficiary of an excellent pass from Richards on a rush, and Carter’s quick hands enabled him to flip the puck past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott to bring his team within one.
Then, the Kings managed to pounce on a mistake by Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold. He pinched in too aggressively on an offensive possession, and the Kings executed some great puck movement on a 3-on-1 rush before Dustin Penner roofed an easy tally to tie the hockey game.
Even after TJ Oshie scored his second goal of the game to give the Blues back the lead, the Kings did not quit. They had a fantastic power play in the second period, and even though they were unable to score, they rode a wave of momentum that carried them through the rest of the second period. They pounded away at Elliott and the Blues, outshooting them 13-6 in the period and laying the ground work for what would be a big third period push.
The Kings’ defense showed up in a big way in that third period, holding the Blues to only one shot in the first 12 minutes of the frame, and the offense took over from there. Just like in the second period, it was the Kings who began winning nearly puck battle along the boards, and when Dustin Brown won a key battle, he found a streaking Anze Kopitar with a thread-the-needle pass, allowing Kopitar to tap in an easy goal to tie the game.
Finally, on the game’s final goal, it was Williams serving as the beneficiary of the hard work of a teammate. This time, it was Dwight King, who cleared out Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman with a massive check along the boards to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Richards then fired the puck on net, and Williams deflected it past Elliott to score the winning tally.
If the Kings end up going on to win this series, hockey pundits will look back on this game as the time that it finally all came together for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Their neutral zone pressure ratcheted up, their veteran scorers finally got into the game, and their passing was precise. When you combine all of these abilities, the Kings are a tough team to beat, and they served notice to the hockey world on Monday that they aren’t going to be eliminated that easily.