The Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues always seem to play tight games. Regardless of one team dominating the other on the shot counter or in scoring chances, we've come to expect low scoring and physical affairs. Despite the Blues only mustering 12 shots on goal through all of regulation, solid goaltending was able to carry them into the shootout.
It would not be an understatement to say that the Blues crawled into the first period. Just coming off a game that went all the way to the shootout, they've also been ravaged by injuries. From the previous game alone they had lost Paul Stastny, Jay Bouwmeester, and goaltender Jake Allen. This does not count the existing injuries to Jaden Schwartz and Steve Ott. Brian Elliott received the call for goal despite having to come into the game for injured Jake Allen the previous night. It's fair to say that prospects weren't great going in to face a more rested and healthier Kings team.
Fortunately for the Blues, Kings fans are no strangers to their team putting a ton of shots on net with little to show for it. This narrative started establishing itself early on, and the Blues mustered only three shots on goal the entire period. They also gifted the Kings with three power plays. Together with their fourth powerplay in the second period, it's hard to not look at those as what could have been the difference maker for the Kings.
The second period began to play out much like the first until Anze Kopitar finally cracked the egg midway through the second period. Kopitar had the puck right in front of the goalie and patiently glided to the right of the goalmouth until the goalie made his move. Kopitar flipped the puck of his backhand, from a spot that was nearly on the redline by the time he released it, for a beautiful show of patience and skill.
This is the part where I'd love to tell you the Kings cruised to a 1-0 win on the night. After all, the Blues only managed another four shots in the second period to the Kings' nine. Alas, mere minutes later the Kings were watching Vladamir Tarasenko a little too closely, which gave Alex Pietrangelo time to skate to the left faceoff dot uncontested. One good shot and things were all tied up.
Even with the tying goal in the second, the Blues still did not spark to life. The Kings controlled the run of play well into the third, and established zone time was rare for the Blues. Just look at the shot locations below to see how little the Blues had going on.
Daily xG Chart - STL vs. L.A 2016-01-10 pic.twitter.com/C0DdozawkE— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) January 10, 2016
The complexion of the game drastically changed eight minutes into the third when Brayden McNabb was assessed a charging major and a game misconduct on his hit against Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi was unfortunately injured on the hit, but the call was highly questionable to the point that many Blues fans scratched their heads in disbelief. Paajarvi was going down to the ice as the result of a slash and push by Milan Lucic, by which time McNabb had already committed to a hit (one that involved no strides, mind you). It seems that we'll be waiting yet again for a game misconduct to be rescinded after unfortunate circumstances caused Jake Muzzin to be assessed a game misconduct for an unavoidable blow to the head of another player.
Now the Kings find themselves in a spot where they must kill a five minute major penalty in which the Blues can potentially score at will. The fatigue and short bench of the Blues showed through though, and the most dangerous chance of the five minute major was a breakaway chance for Jeff Carter. At the end of the five minutes, the Kings found themselves comfortably still tied but robbed of five minutes of even play that could have been the difference.
Even with the five minute major on their side, the Blues had six shots to the Kings nine in the third. Many of us were expectantly licking our chops for a 3v3 OT where speed rules and the Blues had to be out of gas. The Blues proved to be extremely competent in the overtime however. They gave up no breakaways, stifled easy zone entries, and actually outshot the Kings four to three.
Finally came the shootout, and you really only need to know two things: it went a whole seven rounds, and at least Marian Gaborik still has a wicked shot. The Kings saw their shootout record fall to an even 2-2 and now possess a still comfortable nine point lead in the division.