Alexander Steen fires a wrist shot to the LA Kings goaltender. (Photo courtesy: Adam Pantozzi, NHLI)
LOS ANGELES, CA – The struggling Kings had taken down the Blues twice this season. That was before the Blues became one of the hottest teams in the league.
The St. Louis Blues (35-25-6) avoided the spoiler game tonight with a 4-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings (24-34-8). The top line of Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly, and Vladimir Tarasenko picked up right where they left off after Schenn’s recent injury, earning two goals and 5 points tonight and 11 in their last two games. Jake Allen had one of his best performances of the season to improve to 18-16-5 and recording his 19th career shutout, the 3rd most shutouts in Blues’ franchise history.
The Kings got off to a quick start against the Blues, coming up with three big chances in the opening 90 seconds. However, thanks to the zone structure of the “Robert Thomas” line and the physical presence of Pat Maroon, Joel Edmundson, and others, the Blues were able to build much more offensive pressure and create chances in all three sectors of the Kings’ zone, including a great chance from Tyler Bozak that was brilliantly saved by Jonathan Quick:
The Blues would contain the King’s chances but neither could find the back of the net through the opening 20. The Blues headed into the locker room outshooting LA 12-9.
The Blues came out with much more fervor and energy in the middle frame and were rewarded when Vladimir Tarasenko scored his first goal in 7 games with a perfectly placed top-corner wrister for his 28th of the season, just 25 seconds into the period:
Schenn was given the lone assist on the early goal. Shortly after, Drew Doughty would be penalized for tripping, giving the Blues the first powerplay of the evening. They had four great shots but failed to capitalize, and that gave the Kings momentum; they would generate lots of high-grade chances in the latter half of the second period, but the goaltending of Jake Allen and the collapsing defensive strategy worked for the Blues as they kept it out of the twine. In the final three minutes, the Blues got back into their winning style and Tyler Bozak would score his 11th at 18:42, with assists by Joel Edmundson and Robert Thomas to double the Blues lead, 2-0.
The Blues, however, would not stop there, and would close the period as well as they opened it. The top line showed the perseverance that has made this team a genuine contender in the dying second(s) of the period, when a 3-on-2 for St. Louis saw O’Reilly charging down the middle to the front of the net and scoring with just 1.1 seconds remaining on the clock:
The top line would all get points, Schenn and Tarasenko adding assists to O’Reilly’s 26th of the season. The Blues would head to the locker room with three unanswered goals, outshooting LA 13-7 through the middle period.
The Blues played a laid back third to defend their lead, but still managed to skate quicker and sharper than the Kings. Neither team really generated chances either way until the fourth line established their presence with a fourth goal for St. Louis. Ivan Barbashev would net his ninth of the season at 8:13 with assists from his linemates MacEachern and Blais (with a special guest making the call – you’re going to want to listen to this one):
After a large scrum involving Phaneuf and Barbashev would result in a power play for Los Angeles, the Kings would find some more spark on the man advantage, but Jake Allen would stalwart every chance, including a remarkable “save of the year” candidate:
That save would help drain the Kings as they failed to find the back of the next for the remainder of the game. Jake Allen would make 28 saves and earn his third shutout of the season as the Blues walked out of Staples Center with a dominant 4-0 win. Allen’s 19th career shutout would be the third most in Blues franchise history. St. Louis finished the game outshooting LA 32-28.
The Blues improved to 36-26-6 with their second win in as many days, earning two more pivotal points in the Western Conference playoff race. They keep their third-place spot in the Central Division solvent, leading ahead of the top wild card Dallas Stars by three. Jake Allen acknowledged the win rebuilding the team’s confidence after their winning streak started to sour: “After the 11-game stretch and losing [Brayden Schenn], we slipped a little bit as a group, individually, collectively… but we’re fighting to find our way back” Allen told Darren Pang after the game. “Everyone’s winning games right now, so every point’s crucial.”
The Kings fell to 24-35-8, but the youth of the squad, particularly Matt Roy, knew there are still chances to grow and play as a team: “Everyone’s frustrated, but every day we come in and work hard and work for the next game or next shift” Roy told Carrlyn Bathe.
The Blues will finish off the California road trip with a Saturday afternoon matchup against the San Jose Sharks at 5pm ET, while the Kings will open a road trip the same day, heading to Arizona to face off against the Coyotes at 8pm ET. Ways to follow those games are provided by:
STL@SJS – FSMW, NSCA, KMOX, KHTK, NHL.tv
LAK@ARI – FSW, FSAZ, KHTS, KTAR, NHL.tv
For more local Blues stories, insights and more, visit bluesrants.com!