Kings blitz Blues early for 2-0 series lead
The road has been an extended highlight reel for the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs. A breakthrough regular season doesn't mean much right now for the St. Louis Blues.
Anze Kopitar scored twice in a four-goal, first-period blitz as the Kings embarrassed the Blues from the opening faceoff, a 5-2 whipping for their fifth straight road win this postseason. Their latest traveling triumph came one week after they eliminated the Presidents' Trophy winner in overtime at Vancouver.
"We got off to a good start. I mean, scoring 30 seconds into a game helps," said forward Dustin Brown, who had three assists. "But we didn't let off the gas at all."
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter had a goal apiece and Brown and Dustin Penner each had a pair of assists in a period that was one goal shy of the franchise playoff record of five in 1993 against Vancouver.
The last team to start 5-0 on the road in the playoffs was the Lightning in 2004, and they won the Stanley Cup.
`"There's a lot of work left to be done," Kopitar said. "We'll definitely take the position we're in right now, but we all realize they're a good team and they're not going to go away easily."
Brown assisted on Kopitar's short-handed goal and has a hand in all four of the Kings' short-handed goals in the playoffs, two goals and two assists.
Before the game, Penner said he was "role playing," pretending it was the Kings that had dropped Game 1 at home and had that feeling of desperation.
"That's exactly my thought process, `We can't go down 2-nothing,'" Penner said. "It's only one game, but an opportunity to really put the pressure on them.
"We're going to come in with the same focus in Game 3 and not going to rest and say `Good job, we won two games in St. Louis.'"
Andy McDonald scored 18 seconds into the second for St. Louis, but Justin Williams squashed thoughts of a comeback when he scored on the Kings' first shot of the period.
Matt D'Agostini scored in the third for St. Louis, which was 0 for 9 on the power play. Forward T.J. Oshie was among seven Blues players minus-2 or worse, and said it was the most disappointing loss of the season because of the impact.
"You shouldn't have to get down four goals to get guys to get going," Oshie said. "There's a competitive level you need to have for the playoffs and tonight we didn't have it."
Kopitar has three goals and three assists in the playoffs, and has scored in five straight playoff games after leading the Kings in scoring for the fifth straight season with 25 goals and 76 points. Brown added a third assist in the second period and has a team-leading nine points in the postseason.
The Kings have won seven straight on the road in the playoffs counting a pair against San Jose last spring and are in an enviable spot taking the series back to Los Angeles, with Game 3 Thursday night. They opened the first round with a pair of victories at Vancouver, taking that series in five games, but before that held just one 2-0 series lead back in 1968 when they lost in seven in the first round to Minnesota.
The Blues are 1-16 in franchise history when facing a 2-0 series deficit, the lone exception in the first round against Minnesota in 1972 when they rallied to win in seven games.
They'll have to rely on Brian Elliott, with coach Ken Hitchcock ruling out co-No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak for the rest of the series with a lower body injury sustained in Game 2 of the first round.
"We've got some looking in the mirror to do," said forward David Backes, the Blues' captain. "Xs and Os and film, we've done that to death. It's about intestinal fortitude, coming together as a group."
St. Louis had the NHL's stingiest defence in the regular season, with goalies Elliott and Halak combining for 15 shutouts and each blanking the Kings once. They surrendered more goals in the first period of Game 2 than in any regular season period, with Elliott usually on his own.
Even an early fight between B.J. Crombeen and Dwight King, whose boarding penalty knocked out star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in Game 1, failed to provide a spark.
Pietrangelo was a Game 2 scratch but with a lower body injury rather than a concussion-related issue as had been feared after he crashed face-first into the boards near the end of the second period, and could return to a needy lineup for Game 3.
"He tried it today and he's still sore," Hitchcock said. "It's a big hole, not a lot different than if they lost (Drew) Doughty. We need him back in the lineup."
The charge began from the opening faceoff, with Richards scoring on the game's first shot at 31 seconds from the slot after Penner dangled the puck near the net for several seconds before tossing it out.
The Kings had an 8-0 shots advantage before Jonathan Quick finally faced a shot at 9:21, then handled the Blues' power play for their second short-handed goal of the series with Brown stealing the puck from Carlo Colaiacovo in the St. Louis zone and feeding it in front to Kopitar, who had enough time to stretch Elliott across the crease to the breaking point.
That was just the second two-goal deficit of the playoffs for the Blues, the first coming on an empty-net goal in the Kings' 3-1 Game 1 victory. The Kings were just getting warmed up, adding two goals in a span of three shots late in the period.
Carter's shot on a rush deflected high off Roman Polak and right back to his stick, and he beat Elliott with a high shot at 18:37. And with 16.8 seconds left, Kopitar batted in a feed from Williams.
Counting the regular season and playoffs, Kopitar has 11 goals and 30 points in 25 career games against St. Louis.