Did the Los Angeles Kings save their season tonight? The Kings have had a rough go of it on the road this year, and they faced a deficit at home after two periods tonight. With Brian Elliott and the St. Louis Blues locking down the Kings' stars, expecting the Kings to win three straight and two on the road might have been too much to ask. But much like the Blues did in Game Two, the Kings stormed out of the gate in the final period, held St. Louis to almost no opportunities on the other end, and earned a comeback victory at home. The 4-3 win knots the series at 2, and we've got a brand new series on our hands.
Regardless of whether or not you considered this a must-win game, the start of this game was bad news for the Kings. St. Louis scored on their very first shot on goal, making it pretty clear that Jonathan Quick probably wasn't going to be stealing this one for LA. Vladimir Sobotka entered the zone with three other Blues, and with most of them to Quick's right, the Kings' defense shifted that way as well. Jay Bouwmeester took a pass and shot the puck wide, but when the puck bounced hard off the boards to the other side, David Backes was the only player there. Backes one-timed the puck into the almost-empty net from a tough angle to put the Blues ahead 1-0. The Kings didn't panic, but with Colin Fraser in the box for high sticking, the Blues converted near the end of a power play to make it 2-0 just 4:32 in. Kevin Shattenkirk got the puck at the point after the Blues won possession in deep, and his long slap shot was tipped in by T.J. Oshie.
This was bad news for LA but good news for neutral hockey fans; the game opened up quite a bit as a result of the early tallies, providing a bit of offense for those that don't appreciate gritty defensive struggles. A 4-on-4 midway through the first opened things up even more, and when Barret Jackman fell and Roman Polak got caught up the ice, Robyn Regehr made a great chip pass ahead, and Mike Richards and Jeff Carter started a 2-on-1 the other way. Richards' saucer pass eluded the backchecking Oshie, and Carter deked and slipped a backhand through Brian Elliott's legs for his first goal of the postseason. Cutting the deficit to one goal after one period would have been huge, but another odd-man rush allowed LA to tie the score as well. Jordan Leopold attempted to keep the zone, but Jarret Stoll's chip produced a 3-on-1 in the other direction. Stoll passed back to Alec Martinez, who gave it back to Stoll on the right, who passed across to Dustin Penner. Tic, tac, toe, and Penner finished it off to tie the score.
The Blues had outplayed the Kings in period 1, but they let the Kings back in with their defensive lapses. LA had a classic (for them) second period, getting the majority of the shots and attempting even more. But it was St. Louis who scored to take a 3-2 lead. Carter lost an offensive faceoff and couldn't intercept the clearing attempt, and Patrik Berglund carried the puck in and set up Sobotka for a one-timer. Quick allowed a big rebound which neither Martinez nor Rob Scuderi could get to, and Oshie converted past a flailing Quick for his second goal. The Kings pressed hard for the tying goal, but Elliott wasn't facing odd-man rushes anymore, and he made a number of stops to keep St. Louis in front, including a couple of superb stops on Mike Richards on the power play. The period ended with Robyn Regehr laying a huge hit behind his own net on Ryan Reaves; it was also textbook boarding, but somehow, he escaped punishment. Maybe it was a reward for one of his better games in a Kings uniform? See his stats and the other Time on Ice stats below; Robert, of course, will break it down for us soon.
So, to the pivotal third. With the Kings continuing their strong play and JftC commenters trying to put karma in our favor, LA found a way to win. Anze Kopitar didn't score a crazy breakaway goal to break his slump, but he didn't need one; instead, he got to the front of the net and positioned himself for a pass. And boy, did he ever get one; after Dustin Brown fought for the puck and recovered it in the corner, he made a great move to shake off T.J. Oshie before delivering a perfect feed. Kopitar had crept in to the slot and one-timed the puck past Elliott for the game-tying goal. It was his first goal in 19 games, and Brown and Kopitar couldn't contain their excitement at breaking the slump...
Might wanna stay away from LA downtown, cause there might be a gorilla walking around...— Anze Kopitar (@AnzeKopitar) May 7, 2013
With the game tied, there was still work to do. Said work was done just 1:16 later. Dwight King made it happen with a great effort; after Robyn Regehr's slapper was blocked and went wide, King dashed to the side of the ice and blocked Barret Jackman's clearing attempt (while also hitting him pretty hard, of course). Richards picked up the puck and fired it high towards Elliott, and the Kings' current best forward was there to tip the puck in. Though his stick was well off the ice, it appeared that Justin Williams did keep it under the crossbar, and the video review certainly wasn't going to be conclusive even if it was. So on a night where the Kings' top forwards came out of their slumber, the guy who has been consistently showing up got the game-winner. Appropriate!
On a night where Kopitar, Brown, and the Kings were so good in the latter stages, it would have been a killer for Los Angeles to concede a late goal. But in the midst of his weakest game of the playoffs, Jonathan Quick came up big with a point-blank save on David Backes with three minutes left. The Kings kept the Blues at bay when the extra attacker came on late, and when the final horn went off, the series was tied, 2-2. LA will need to carry this into Game 5 if they'll have a shot to win at the Scottrade Center; they DO need a road win to take the series, so let's hope they can take care of that on Wednesday.