It's a good thing that this game was the second of a back-to-back, because I don't think anyone was looking forward to more than one day of stewing over yesterday's loss. Well, neither were the Los Angeles Kings, and they very quickly got over their disappointment with another strong performance on the road. This time, instead of facing a buzzsaw goaltender, they faced the struggling Brian Elliott. And this time, the Kings converted their best chances, and backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier was steady en route to a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Remember January 24, against Phoenix? It was the last time the Kings scored first. Tonight, the Kings returned to their trend of controlling possession early, and after surviving the initial 5-6 minutes for the first time in a few games, Jeff Carter put the Kings on the board. Slava Voynov (more on his performance later) picked up the puck from Mike Richards at center ice, entered the zone, and slid a great cross-ice past a sliding Alex Pietrangelo to Carter. He tapped in from close range, and the Kings had the lead.. The period started with Jordan Nolan winning a fight with Wade Redden, and the chippiness continued when David Backes elbowed Nolan at the end of the period.
(One note: Alec Martinez left the game after the first period. They're calling it a upper-body injury, and he is expected to go on IR.)
The second period has been a strength for LA all year, and the Kings decided to actually score a couple goals this time around. Carter scored his second of the game and his team-leading sixth of the year three minutes in. Keaton Ellerby was already on his way to a strong performance, and his seeing-eye pass past the blue line left Carter breaking in alone on Brian Elliott. Carter deked around Elliott and slid the puck in on his backhand through the five-hold of Brian Elliott. Then, between two boarding penalties by St. Louis, Dustin Brown set up Davis Drewiske for a power play goal. Drewiske had tons of room in the slot and converted, beating Elliott for his first goal of the season.
However, the Kings didn't resist joining the chippiness as well as they did last April. Trevor Lewis boarded Vladimir Sobotka (and got beaten up as a result), and Alexander Steen blasted a slapper past Bernier after (sigh) a clean faceoff win in the offensive zone. There's always something to work on. Anyway, Rob Scuderi then hit David Backes near the boards, and though Backes certainly helped himself into the boards, it was a dumb penalty with five seconds left in the period.
The third, thankfully for the Kings, was pretty anticlimactic. The early stages saw some of the Blues' best sustained pressure, and the Blues would go on to outshoot the Kings in the period 10-6, but Bernier was solid and made some big saves. Three minutes in, Jarret Stoll's early tally removed a lot of pressure. Dustin Penner (back from the bench) drove into the zone and set up the play, and Slava Voynov delivered another perfect cross-ice pass. This time, Stoll was the recipient, and he one-timed a shot past Elliott for the final 4-1 margin.
Nine players made the scoresheet, five defensemen kept the Blues under control, and Jonathan Bernier won his first start since March. The game wound with John Reaves punching Dustin Brown after a check and the St. Louis fans booing, but the Kings showed their relief after a triumph in what some called a must-win game.
So the Kings end a rough road trip with a convincing win, and (just barely this time) outshoot their opponent for the sixth straight game. Now, Los Angeles gets three days off before getting Columbus at home. Let us know why this game ruled in the comments.