Man, that was not easy. Just two weeks ago, 69% of us wanted to face St. Louis in Round 1. Now, we're happy to be advancing, and perhaps happier that we don't have to play them again this year. But once again, the Los Angeles Kings did what they needed to do to win a one-goal game. They got a couple timely goals, received some stellar goaltending, and limited opportunities late. And in the end, a 2-1 win sent the St. Louis Blues packing and the Kings moving on.
The first period seemed to consist mainly of the Kings trying not to make mistakes, and the Blues playing an aggressive forecheck with everyone deep in the offensive zone. St. Louis was determined to test Jonathan Quick and succeeded somewhat, but along with 22 shots on goal, they racked up quite a few missed shots over the course of the night. Quick came way out of his crease to make a nice glove save on David Backes, and most of the other first-period bids by the Blues were from the perimeter. Meanwhile, the Kings looked to spring counter-attacks, and though Tyler Toffoli was denied earlier after finding some space, the fourth line was back on when Drew Doughty capitalized on a Grade-A chance. Dwight King helped his goalie's clearing attempt out of the zone, and Colin Fraser picked it up, carried it in, and made a drop pass to the oncoming Doughty. Doughty wound up for a fake shot, and after Roman Polak backed off slightly, Doughty stickhandled and fired a pinpoint wrist shot over the blocker of Brian Elliott.
The only other great Kings chance of the first forced a toe save by Elliott on Dustin Brown, and after Chris Stewart's bid with five minutes left rang off the post, the second period began 1-0. The second would be the only period in which the Kings outshot the Blues, but the first and only St. Louis power play of the game set the Blues up for an equalizer. The Blues got some offensive time and continued it for 20 seconds after Alec Martinez left the penalty box. Chris Porter's shot was blocked, and instead of trying to score on the rebound, Backes picked up the puck and kicked it out to Roman Polak. Polak took a long shot, and as Porter drifted in front of Quick, it deflected off of Porter's thigh past Quick. Ryan Reaves had a good chance on the break a couple minutes later, and Quick's pad was forced to deny his attempt and Kevin Shattenkirk's rebound bid. St. Louis was throwing more pucks on net, starting to force more turnovers and spending more time in the offensive zone; as can be seen below, most of the Kings were outgunned at even strength overall.
It looked for all the world like the game would be tied going into the third after Dustin Brown couldn't convert a breakaway chance with three minutes left. Staples Center was a bit disappointed with the Kings' effort at that point. However, as the period wound down, Dustin Penner decided to try one more shot instead of running out the clock. With six seconds left the Blues' clearing attempt was blocked at center ice by Rob Scuderi, and Penner shielded the puck, rounded Chris Stewart, and ripped a long slap shot from the blue line. Roman Polak halfheartedly reached his stick out instead of getting out of the way or getting his body in front, and the puck deflected off the stick and beat Elliott high on the short side. Just 0.2 seconds were on the clock when Penner's blast crossed the goal line. It was Penner's second-biggest goal as a King and a critical blow to the Blues' chances.
That's not to say St. Louis didn't try. The Kings mustered just three shots as they looked to close the game out, while the Blues doubled down on the aggressiveness. A couple turnovers by Slava Voynov (following up his Game 5 heroism with a bit of a stinker) set up Adam Cracknell and Jaden Schwartz in the first half of the third, but Quick was game. An annoyed Jake Muzzin laid a heavy hit on Alexander Steen directly after the Schwartz chance. Two minutes later, David Perron's backhand pass sprung Patrik Berglund loose for the Blues' best chance of the game; though he had snuck behind Voynov and Muzzin, he was denied from close range and sent his rebound wide. LA finally got a power play but did nothing with it, and after Berglund's shot tipped onto the crossbar with 2:13 left, the Kings needed to weather a final empty-net surge. But, shades of Game 4 in 2012... St. Louis could not get the puck past center ice as the first and third lines forechecked like mad, and the series ended with the Kings on top.
The handshake line ended, fittingly, with David Perron and Jonathan Quick shaking hands and exchanging what I assume was mutual respect. Despite such a bitterly contested series, there was nothing but dignity and recognition of a great showdown in that final handshake line. The Kings' celebrations were businesslike and slightly toned down (befitting a defending champ), but they certainly showed how hap-lieved they were to have made it out of the most physical, most competitive series of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Kings have done their part to set up a potential Freeway Faceoff in Round 2, but if Anaheim goes down in Game 7, LA will have home-ice advantage against San Jose. We'll worry about that on Monday; let's just look forward to the Cup defense continuing.