Kings @ Blues Recap: We Now Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming
The Kings rolled into St. Louis on the second day of a back-to-back against a very good Blues team.They played very well despite the loss the night before, and good things happened.
The Los Angeles Kings definitely have to be disappointed about the previous night's loss against the Chicago Blackhawks after entering the third period with a lead. Fortunately the loss, or the fatigue from playing the night before, did not seem to be a factor in their contest against the St. Louis Blues.
The Kings had been riding an NHL-high seven game win streak just the night before that rocketed them to the top of their division after an 0-3 start. Coming out of St. Louis with a win would put them right back where they left off, but they would have to do it on the second night of a back-to-back against a very skilled, albeit injured, Blues team that had yet to lose at home in regulation.
LA also made some interesting lineup decisions both before and during the game. Backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth drew in as expected after a heavy load against the Blackhawks for Jonathan Quick. However, new dad Jamie McBain (Congrats Jamie and Liz!) would also play after welcoming his son into the world just the day before, despite not skating in several days. The McBain decision was probably driven by a less than stellar game by rookie Derek Forbort the night before. Finally, rookie Jordan Weal finally got his crack at a second game and replaced Jordan Nolan in the lineup.
The Kings started the game off looking fresh and were able to draw two penalties early in the first. The Kings looked generally strong on these powerplays, on what has been a surprising start for the man advantage to the season as a whole. This is where the Kings manufactured a lot of their shots for the period, rocketing them to a 12 to 5 shot advantage for the first period. LA would take a couple of their own penalties late in the period, but despite this, St. Louis still only put five shots on net during the period.
The excellent play of Blues goaltender Jake Allen was perhaps the highlight of the period, capstoned by his diving glove save on the power play against Anze Kopitar. Kopiitar saw so much open net that the save made him outright exclaim "Wow" in exasperation after the whistle. Despite being scoreless, the first ended on a sour note as Ryan Reaves treated Anze Kopitar to a stick knob to the face that went unpenalized. Kopitar was treated on the bench for a bleeding mouth, and although he took a few more shifts in the period, we never saw him in the subsequent periods.
Tempo increased in the second period as both teams' shots were finding the net more. Though a less penalized period, it's hard to miss Drew Doughty drawing two penalties in the span of two minutes late in the period. They were especially crucial since Dustin Brown had just taken a penalty of his own seconds before, thus negating St. Louis's man advantage. In general, the Kings would have to be happy about their penalty kill as well as it even generated a few chances on its own during the first.
The two penalties proved to be the elixir against a stellar Jake Allen, and the Kings' first goal came from Jeff Carter on a 4 on 3 advantage. Carter took a shot high along the goal line that was able to rebound off of Allen's back into the net. The Kings went into the second intermission with their one goal lead intact and a period shot total of 17 to the Blues' 11.
Things heated up even more in the third period as the Blues looked to even the score against what was probably a Kings team beginning to feel the fact that they had played the night before. St. Louis began to pour on the shot attempts and the increased pace allowed Vladamir Tarasenko to get Dustin Brown whistled for a hook. After the power play, LA started to feel a little bit of life again. The Kings used the Blues' deep zone pressure against them, and the puck was cleared to Tyler Toffoli who turned things the other way. Tanner Pearson streaked down the right side and a trailing Brayden McNabb fed Pearson on a pass from Toffoli. Jake Allen seemed frozen by the situation and bobbled as Pearson closed in, allowing Tanner to easily pick the five hole and add some security to the game.
The goal didn't stop the Blues' pressure, and it finally culminated with them pulling Allen with around two and a half minutes to play. LA finally managed to work the puck out of their own zone with less than a minute to play, and this allowed Trevor Lewis to score his second empty net goal of the year to finalize the Blues' fate.
Jhonas Enroth played well for the Kings and earned his second win, and first shutout for the team. Jordan Weal had no outstanding errors in his seven minutes of ice time, so there's no obvious reason to keep him out of further games unlike his mistakes in his first appearance. Scottie Upshall delivered another questionable elbow to the head of Tyler Toffoli in the closing minutes that went unpenalized, despite an obvious view from the linesman. While it is doubtful this one will be looked at, Reaves' hit on Kopitar in the first could definitely be worth a review from the Department of Player Safety.
The Kings finished the game with a rather even count on shot attempts and scoring chances at even play, with the Blues getting the edge in both, according to war-on-ice.com. Given that it was the second night of a back to back and the Kings played most of the game without their number one center, these are both very respectable, especially since they managed to find the net for a large share of their shot attempts. Though Tarasenko had four shots, the Kings managed to limit him to two scoring chances. Despite his two penalties, Brown was involved and generated chances of his own. Marian Gaborik also had a team high five shots on goal. It was a good win with a lot to be positive about. Let's hope it's the beginning of a new winning streak.