Something is happening at Staples in between the second and the third period. I don't know what it is or who's doing it, but I'd be okay with it continuing for a while. For the third straight home game, the fans saw a lackluster two periods from the Los Angeles Kings. And for the third straight home game, SOMETHING happened. How else can you explain tonight's turnaround? Down 4-2 and booed after two awful power plays at the end of the second period, the Kings decided to score at will in the third, earning their seventh win in eight games by a score of 6-4.
The first period was pretty misleading, as 40 minutes of penalties and three fights created a bloodthirsty atmosphere. First it was a wrestling match between Colin Fraser and Barret Jackman; unsatisfied with that matchup, Kyle Clifford and Roman Polak went at it. Then, this happened:
The offense was scarce early on, with Alex Pietrangelo banking in a shot off the skate of Slava Voynov for the game's first goal. But Justin Williams made a very Justin Williams play to help Jake Muzzin tie the game (the first time). A shot deflected wide and it looked like St. Louis would clear, but Williams hustled to the corner and dove to knock the puck back to Drew Doughty at the point. Doughty passed to Muzzin, and his hard shot went through an Anze Kopitar screen and banked in off the post behind Jaroslav Halak for his third goal of the season.
Sobotka atoned for his earlier mishap with 1:10 left in the period. Matt D'Agostini wheeled all the way around the Kings' net and dropped the puck to Barret Jackman, who basically took a fadeaway wrist shot from the blue line. Sobotka was in the middle of Muzzin, Doughty, and traffic, and his deflection eluded Bernier and gave the Blues the lead going into the locker room. You have to feel a little bit for Jonathan Bernier, who was pulled early in the second period after the third Blues goal; every single goal he allowed was deflected and caused by lackluster defensive effort. Regardless, three goals on eight shots ain't pretty, and after Alex Pietrangelo's low shot was tipped by David Perron through the five-hole, it was curtains for Bernier. Jake Muzzin was the one who failed to clear out the front of the net, and at this point I had something about Muzzin having an, um, rough night. Ha!
Jonathan Quick couldn't do much about goal number four, either. David Perron took possession after a strong Blues forecheck, and he hit a driving Chris Stewart. Stewart beat King, dodged Scuderi, and backhanded over the shoulder of Quick. Quick was too busy trying to see past Slava Voynov, who was tangled with a Blue in front and provided an incredibly effective screen. But Voynov came right back with a goal at the 13:40 mark to bring Los Angeles back within two. Voynov took control on the far side of the right circle after the Blues cleared the front, and in the tradition of the evening, he threw the puck at the net through traffic and it found its way past Halak. Polak took two penalties in the remainder of the second period, the second an scary-looking board on Dwight King (who, in fairness, was off balance). Two horrendous power plays later, the second period ended with the score 4-2. Goodbye momentum.
Until 1:33 into the third! Dustin Penner did some hard work and knocked the puck loose in the offensive zone. He then made a great backhand feed to Mike Richards, who was stopped on his initial effort but was able to beat Halak with his deflected second shot. One minute later, it was Jake Muzzin... again! And it was from a similar angle as the earlier Voynov goal, except instead of picking up the puck and firing it, Muzzin drove down the side of the ice before surprising Halak with his quick shot.
After this, Ken Hitchcock pulled the mother of all fakeouts, having Brian Elliott get ready to enter but ultimately keeping Halak in net. With the benefit of hindsight... not a very effective move. After a faceoff win by Richards, Muzzin took the puck all the way from left point to right point before going against the grain with a backhand pass to Jeff Carter, who had no one between him and Halak. Carter took a wrist shot, and it was only ever going to end up in the back of the net. His 11th goal in 11 games gave Los Angeles the lead for the first time at 6:09 of the third. Much like yesterday, five frantic minutes had turned the tide, and this time, Elliott did replace Halak in the blues' net.
Believe it or not, there were no goals immediately after that. Though we did get four penalties, a 2-on-0 shorthanded break by Voynov and Richards, a Doughty breakaway (no luck, still goal-less this season), and some PP pressure by the Blues, the game sat at 5-4 for almost nine minutes! At even strength, Anze Kopitar hit the crossbar and then nearly banked the rebound in off a wildly flailing Elliott, but he wouldn't have to wait long for another chance. Justin Williams took advantage of an error by Ian Cole to break in on the St. Louis goal, but good defense forced him wide of the net. He quickly recovered and threw the puck into the crease, and when it was deflected out, Kopitar got to it first and flicked an unstoppable shot past the glove of Elliott. Doughty hit the outside of the net on an ice-length shot in the waning seconds, but it didn't matter; five unanswered goals had given the Kings their seventh win in eight games.
I mentioned after yesterday's game that the third period has been undoubtedly the Kings' strong suit. Well, down 4-2 on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings outshot the Blues 15-4 and outscored them 4-0 in the third period. What more can you ask for? Well, aside from a better performance in the first 40 minutes. Oh, and Bernier's hot streak ended (perhaps through little fault of his own), and Darryl Sutter will no doubt find some choice words about the defensive coverage at various points. Aside from that, it's an enormously important win, and damn, was it thrilling.