Enterprise Center, St. Louis, Missouri
Los Angeles Kings, 4-5 (7th in Pacific Division) at St. Louis Blues, 4-2-3 (3rd in Central Division)
L.A. traveled east to the Gateway City to take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues (that never gets old). Both teams were feeling pretty good about themselves coming into Thursday’s contest. The Blues played their most complete game of the season in knocking off the previously unbeaten Avalanche on Monday night. The Kings got off to a slow start at 2 and 5, but they have won their last 2 games against the Flames and Jets- both Western Conference Playoff teams last season.
St. Louis came in riding the hot scoring of Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko, while the Kings were led by their center Anze Kopitar, who leads L.A. in both goals and assists. Jonathan Quick has only allowed 3 goals on his last 52 shots faced and appears to be revitalized.
The first 6 minutes were filled with end to end action with both teams having good chances. Tarasenko twice went to his patented, lean on the defender/muscle toward the goalie move. Jonathan Quick made the save on a backhand shot on the first, and on the second Vlady was unable to get a shot off, though he skated right in front of the crease. Of larger concern was the fact that Tarasenko went off the ice after appearing to tweak his shoulder a little later in the period. He’s listed with the proverbial “upper-body injury” but could be seen grabbing his right shoulder. Tarasenko did not return.
With 10:30 gone in the 1st, Colton Parayko did a great job keeping the puck in the offensive zone and sent a bullet off the boards to Alex Pietrangelo who was parked in front of Quick. Petro’s shot went off the short side post, however, and the game remained scoreless. A few minutes later Ryan O’Reilly turned the puck over near the boards in the defensive zone and Blake Lizotte found Jeff Carter in front of the Blues’ goal. Carter lifted the puck over the sprawling Binnington and it was 1-0 L.A.
As if energized by the Kings’ goal, the Blues immediately applied pressure, including a great chance by Mackenzie MacEachern on a 2 on 1 with Oskar Sundqvist. St. Louis kept the puck in the L.A. zone for a good 30 seconds which included a couple of scoring chances by Zach Sanford in his return to the lineup. But it wasn’t until Tyler Toffoli went off for slashing David Perron at 17:48 that the Blues were able to break through.
With a minute and a half left in the period, Vince Dunn took a beautiful blind pass from Jaden Schwartz and wristed it past Quick on the glove side. It was 1-1 at the end of the first with the Blues outshooting the Kings 16-12.
The Kings lost the lead late in the 1st period, but it didn’t take them long to take it back in the 2nd. A little over 3 minutes in, a rather innocent-looking play along the boards gave the Kings a 2-1 lead when Sean Walker threw the puck towards the Blues goal. Alex Iafallo had snuck over to Binnington’s left side and managed to deflect the puck through a small crack between Binnington and the left post. The Kings’ leading scorer Anze Kopitar had the secondary assist.
With 12:45 left in the second, it appeared that Robert Thomas had tied it up off a great behind the back pass from Zach Sanford. Thomas threw his hands in the air to celebrate and play was stopped, but replays showed the puck went off the crossbar and then the left post, but did NOT go in the net.
Although the Blues didn’t score, they were awarded a power play when Jeff Carter went off for slashing. However, the ensuing power play was ineffective and the Blues nearly gave up their 3rd short-handed goal of the season when an O’Reilly pass was intercepted by Adrian Kempe. Kempe broke in on a 2 on 1 with Alex Iafallo, but Binnington made the save.
The Blues got another chance on the power play halfway through the period and may have gained a spark when Jordan Binnington got into a bit of a shoving match with L.A. winger Kyle Clifford. Clifford had just taken a slashing penalty, and during the stoppage in play, Binnington skated into him. Accidentally?… Clifford took exception and gave Binny a shove, but the goalie didn’t back down. 6 or 7 other skaters from both sides jumped in but nothing much came of it in the end, aside from the crowd (and seemingly the Blues) getting a little hyped up over it.
Up until Clifford’s penalty, it hadn’t been Ryan O’Reilly’s best night, but with the Blues on the power play, he sent a pass to David Perron and immediately bulled toward the net. Perron sent a pass to Petrangielo who ripped a one-timer past Quick with the help of O’Reilly’s screen, and it was 2-2.
The Blues continued their push and a minute and a half later it was 3-2 Blues when Robert Thomas scored his first of the year. Bozak sent a pass down low to Sanford who sent it out front to Thomas. Thomas attempted a one-timer but partially fanned on it. Quick, however, was out of position, and as the puck slowly slid towards the crease Thomas followed up his own shot and poked it in.
The Kings threatened to tie it up late in the period when Justin Faulk went off for tripping. L.A. had extended time in the offensive zone, but the Blues were finally able to clear with 20 seconds left in the power play. The Kings were dangerous on that power play, but the Blues managed to kill it off and head to the locker room with a 3-2 lead. The shots after 2 periods were 24-23 Kings.
Although the Blues had gotten off to a good start overall this season, they had blown a couple of 3rd period leads recently. Blues fans may have had cause for concern when Tyler Bozak went off for hooking just a couple minutes into the period, but St. Louis did a great job on the kill. L.A. was never able to get any serious pressure.
At 5:53 of the 3rd, the Blues had another power play when Iafallo went off for hooking Tyler Bozak, and what followed was one of the prettiest plays of the season for the Blues. After extended O-zone time, it was tic-tac-toe passing from Parayko to Schwartz to Schenn who just had to tap it in to make it 4-2. It was Schenn’s 7th goal of the season and gave the Blues a little cushion. The Blues went 3 for 4 on the power play. Their 3 power-play goals marked the first time they had accomplished that feat since March 6th against Anaheim.
The Kings would have one more chance to claw back into it when Justin Faulk went off for slashing at 15:16. L.A. was able to apply steady pressure but their last serious threat was turned aside when Binnington denied Ilya Kovalchuck with 3:35 left. Kovalchuk skated into the right slot and had a one-timer chance but he fanned on it and couldn’t corral the rebound.
Brayden Schenn scored his 2nd goal of the night to wrap it up for the Blues when he put one into an empty with just under 2 minutes left.
St. Louis played another complete game and continued the momentum they gained while shutting down Colorado Monday night. Mackenzie MacEachern and Zach Sanford both had solid games in their return to the lineup. Jaden Schwartz had 2 assists to extend his points streak to 6 games. Vladimir Tarasenko’s “upper body” injury is a major concern. He was catching fire after a bit of a slow start.
The Blues head to the site of their all-time greatest triumph Saturday night when they head to TD Garden to take on the Boston Bruins.