The Los Angeles Kings' drop from fourth to fifth in the Western Conference at season's end had some consequences. The biggest, of course, was that LA would not be able to advance without a victory on the road. For a team that had not won a road game since March 31, this was a tall order. Enter Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick, and Slava Voynov. Carter scored twice to complement Quick's 33-save performance, and when the St. Louis Blues notched a late goal to put the Kings on the ropes, Slava Voynov came through with the winner eight minutes into OT.
The Blues dominated in the early going of Game 5. The Kings actually got a power play almost immediately after Trevor Lewis drew a hooking call, but after no shots on goal in two minutes, the Blues pounced. For the first two thirds of the first period, the Kings were scrambling, and the Blues were cycling. Jonathan Quick got into his game early, while Brian Elliott merely needed to make a few saves towards the end of the period. Jake Muzzin made a few bad decisions, which might have put him at risk of being replaced by Ellerby if there had been seven defensemen tonight. However, Sutter made the decision to abandon his seven-defenseman idea, instead inserting Tyler Toffoli as the 12th forward. Each of the defensemen saw marginally increased ice time as a result, inflated by the OT session; Doughty played 33 minutes, Regehr got 25 minutes, Voynov 24, Scuderi 23. And so on. In spite of the stress, neither team found the net, and the first period ended scoreless.
Both sets of fans have been complaining about how often players are getting kicked out of the playoff circle. It paid dividends on the Kings' first offensive zone draw of the second period, as Patrik Berglund was kicked out. T.J. Oshie lost the draw to Jeff Carter, and Drew Doughty's point shot immediately produced a rebound opportunity. Carter buried it to put the Kings up 1-0. But after getting away with a few mistakes, Jake Muzzin's shaky play cost the Kings. Muzzin's turnover led to a Blues break the other way, and Alexander Steen took the puck back after Muzzin recovered it behind the net. Steen came back around the net, drifted to the slot, and fired a wrister up high to beat Quick.
The end of the second period could have sent the game in either direction. Carter hooked Vladimir Sobotka to send the Blues on a late power play, and though St. Louis attempted seven shots, Jonathan Quick continued his fine performance in net and kept the Blues at bay. The Kings had gone for a twelve-minute stretch without a shot on goal, but Dustin Brown drew a tripping penalty on Barret Jackman with six seconds left in the period, and LA had a power play to start the third. It proved to be essential; after a mediocre start to the power play, Anze Kopitar carried the puck in and executed a give-and-go to Brian Elliott's left. It didn't seem like Kopitar had a ton of room to work with, but after drawing Elliott and the defense his way, he passed across the crease to Carter, whose uncontested one-timer easily beat an out-of-position Elliott.
So, for the second time, Carter had put the Kings ahead less than a minute into the period. Los Angeles did a much better job of keeping the Blues at bay in the third than they had in the second, and though they only had three shots to the Blues' nine, it seemed like St. Louis wasn't going to be able to get anything going. However, the Blues got an offensive zone faceoff after pulling Brian Elliott, and a clean faceoff win got the puck back to Alex Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo took a wrister from the blue line as six (approximately) players blocked Jonathan Quick's vision, and he didn't see the puck until it floated by him on the low glove side. Though the CBC commentator exclaimed that it was "Another late game gaffe by Quick!", kind of hard to fault him given just how much traffic got in the way. And the stats ESPECIALLY tell us not to fault Quick too much in general...
Regardless, it sent the game to overtime.
Unlike Game 1, the Blues were looking to capitalize on their late game-tying goal, but much like Game 1, it was the Kings who had the best chances early on in overtime. The third line produced a good chance four minutes in, as Penner's fight for the puck produced a clean look for Robyn Regehr and a great rebound chance for Penner which was stopped by Elliott. But three minutes later, just when doubt might have been creeping in, an effective odd-man rush produced the biggest goal of the series thus far. Dustin Brown's hit on David Backes freed the puck along the boards for Justin Williams, who took it forward on the left skating in tandem with Anze Kopitar (center) and Slava Voynov (right). Williams passed on to Kopitar, who passed on to Voynov. Voynov had a step on the backchecking Jaden Schwartz, and he took a wrist shot which beat Elliott five-hole.
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It's the Russian defenseman's second goal of the 2013 playoffs, and the most important goal of his young NHL career. Given how tight this series has been, the LA Kings couldn't have asked for much more than what they have right now: an opportunity to clinch the series at home. They have to know they got away with a win in one of their weaker performances as of late. But, hey, scoreboard matters. Expect a better performance on Friday night with the Kings poised to close out these tough Blues in Game 6... once they're done WOO-ing, of course.
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