This game is going down in the history books.
But not in the book of late-game heroics, alongside Steve Bozek's game-tying goal, or the Matt Greene face-block. Not in the book of overtime triumphs, alongside Evans, Krushelnyski, Deadmarsh, Stoll, or Kopitar. And not even the book of remarkable individual playoff performances, alongside Gretzky, Potvin, and... yes... Quick.
This game potentially could have ended up in any and all of those categories. But no, this one's going to be remembered for one play... and boy, it was a bad one. Jonathan Quick's turnover behind the net gave Alexander Steen a gift of an overtime goal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. As a result, the St. Louis Blues got a win which they probably deserved for their overall performance.
So why is it not fair? Because Jonathan Quick was the Kings' best player tonight, and it wasn't close. Jim Fox repeatedly called it his best game of the season, and given the stakes, he was right. But sudden-death hockey is unforgiving. And thus, Quick will be the story.
The Blues could've easily put this one away early. While the Kings kept up with St. Louis early on, the Blues soon put the Kings on their heels with forechecking, physical play, and puck control. The Kings snuck in a couple chances early; Ryan Reaves crushed both Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson but left room for Dustin Penner to sneak in for a good look, and Kopitar just missed a streaking Carter alone in front. Those were the Kings' first-period highlights until a power play at the very end of the period, when Jeff Carter's last-gasp effort tipped Brian Elliott's glove and hit the post as time expired. Before all of that, the Blues took it to the Kings, and Quick nearly ceded the advantage when he lost the puck behind the net only to dive and foil an oncoming David Backes. (Foreshadowing!) Soon after, the Blues got on the board; after the Kings got hit with a too-many-men penalty, Kevin Shattenkirk's slap shot forced a rebound, which was converted by Steen. (Foreshadowing!)
Rob Scuderi (didn't clear) and Robyn Regehr (covering Steen, couldn't quite break up the rebound) were on the ice for that PK, and both looked a step behind a lot tonight and made some noticeable turnovers. But you can't pin the Kings' play on their individual performances; Doughty was really the only defenseman tonight who was on top of things. "Muzzerby" made a brief appearance tonight and looked pretty overmatched, though Jake Muzzin's final shot differential stats were among LA's best. The overall defensive performance is probably best summed up by Regehr breaking his stick on an attempted outlet pass with no one around him. Is it enough to merit a return for Alec Martinez? We'll see. One potential D-changer occurred when Regehr broke his nose as the skate heel of Backes hit him in the face as he lay on the ice, but being the tough defenseman that he is, he was back within minutes and shouldn't miss any time.
Quick kept the Kings in it through the first and throughout the remaining periods. The second period was "technically" better because the Kings didn't allow any goals, but they got outplayed every bit as much. Into the third period it went, with the raucous Blues crowd getting frustrated as Quick made further stops to prevent the buzzing Blues from scoring. The best save was a breakaway stop on Backes midway through the final frame, and though St. Louis kept getting their chances, the Kings finally found their feet in the last three minutes. Just in time, too; after Quick departed the net with under a minute left, Drew Doughty moved the puck from his own zone and made a brilliant pass through a couple Blues to Justin Williams. Williams took a wrist shot which beat Elliott on the high short side with 31 seconds left, and the Kings had a lifeline.
Los Angeles controlled the overtime, in contrast to the rest of the game before. In fact, the Kings had racked up seven consecutive shots before Kevin Shattenkirk went to the penalty box for four minutes for high-sticking Dustin Penner. It looked like the opportunity the Kings had been waiting for. But the first couple efforts at cycling in the offensive zone produced nothing, and behind the net, Jonathan Quick prepared to play the puck. Steen roared in, Quick hesitated as the Kings didn't offer him much immediate help, and Quick's attempted pass went right to Steen. Steen's wraparound beat both Quick and a backchecking Carter for the game-winner.
It's a crushing loss, and it gives the Kings something they didn't have once last year: a series deficit. The response on Thursday is going to be key.