ST. LOUIS -- Normally, one would not consider the first game of a seven-game playoff series to be do or die.
But it might be argued that the outcome of the first game of the Western Conference quarter-finals between the St. Louis and the Los Angeles Kings became that critical for the Blues.
When Los Angeles got a goal from Justin Williams with just 32 seconds
to play in regulation, they tied a game 1-1 that they had no business being in.
It seemed like last year was happening all over again for the Blues, who had lost eight consecutive games to the Kings, including all four of their 2012 playoff matchup. In that series, nothing went right for the Blues, and everything went right for the Stanley Cup-bound Kings.
To lose to LA again, under those circumstances on home ice, promised to be devastating - Game 1 or not. But, killing a four-minute penalty to Kevin Shattenkirk, the Blues got a short-handed goal 13:26 into the OT, turning devastation into celebration, and a dramatic 2-1 win
"It's just one game," said Alexander Steen, who scored both goals for the Blues. "That's the mentality of it. It's the first of four, that's all. We're up 1-0
and we move on."
That's the mentality the Blues needed to prevail. But it's hard to imagine they would recover from losing a game in which they out-shot the Kings 42-29 and missed numerous opportunities to run away.
It's hard to imagine they put that behind them, given the baggage they were carrying.
"The hockey gods took care of us," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We played a great hockey game. Waking up tomorrow would have been challenging if we didn't win the hockey game."
Brian Elliott outstanding in win
Goaltender Brian Elliott was outstanding for the Blues, but he would have been a tragic figure if not for Steen's overtime goal. Williams' game-tying goal in the waning moments of regulation came from a low-percentage spot, inside the faceoff circle.
Elliott said the snapshot deflected off defenceman Barret Jackman's stick before sneaking into the short side under the crossbar. Elliott, who struggled mightily against LA last year, rebounded by turning aside 10 Kings' shots in the OT. It was his first career victory over LA of any kind.
"You can't get mad at yourself," Elliott said of the tying goal. "You have to re-focus and want to play in that overtime, and guys in here were excited to do it. It was a little bit of a roller-coaster ride, but that penalty turned out to be a game-winner for us.
"Anything can happen, you have be prepared for that. You have to stay positive and stick to your game plan. They came at us in overtime and we battled back."
Steen bails out Shattenkirk
When Steen scored in overtime, the happiest man in the Scottrade Center was Shattenkirk, sitting in the penalty box. The defenceman, who assisted on the team's first goal, and played a strong 21 minutes, was whistled for a double-major penalty for high-sticking Dustin Penner.
"I think I might have thrown the guy in the penalty box out of the way to get on the ice," Shattenkirk said. "I guess getting a goal on it is one way to end the game.
"I think I owe Steener a big thanks, maybe a couple of dinners. It was a very big relief."
Quick's pocket picked
On the flipside, the least excited person in the building was Quick. In a game the Kings should have lost by several goals, Quick was superb. But in the end, he had his pocket picked by Steen.
"It's exactly what it looked like," said Quick, who turned aside 40 of 42 shots. "I tried to make a pass. He blocked it and scored."
Quick said he chose not to pass the puck immediately, fearing it would put him in a bind.
"I don't have an option to the left, and you're trying to force him to the left," Quick added. "Trying to give my D-man a little more time with the puck. You give it to him early and then he [Steen] is up his ass. You try to make him make a decision. And he got the stick on it.
Quick took no solace in his outstanding play otherwise. The Kings were never behind in a playoff series during their championship run last year.
"If we won, I'd put it right away," Quick said. "If we lost, like we did, I put it right away. It doesn't make a difference. You just try to win Game 2."
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