The St. Louis Blues defeated the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in overtime Tuesday night at Scottrade Center to take a 1-0 lead in their best of seven Round One match-up in the 2013 Western Conference Playoffs. Alex Steen scored both St. Louis goals and Brian Elliott was brilliant stopping 28 of 29 shots faced.
St. Louis had not forgotten the way the Kings have treated them over their last 11 games dating back to last season. The Blues rudely welcomed the Kings to town for Game 1 of the 2013 Western Conference Playoffs, battering and badgering them throughout the first half of the game. Steen gave the Blues the all-important early lead when he banged in a rebound at 9:05 of the 1st period for a power-play goal.
The Blues looked to be firing on all cylinders early on with heavy checking, excellent puck control, and even sustained pressure with the man-advantage. Kevin Shattenkirk assisted on Steen’s goal, but he made the whole thing happen with a fantastic hold at the blueline and then a rocket of a shot that Jonathan Quick couldn’t cover. He gave up a few big, juicy rebounds throughout the game but St. Louis wasn’t able to capitalize again until much later.
The Blues led the entire way Tuesday night, though the Kings would not go down quietly. LA fought back in the 2nd and 3rd periods, forcing bad St. Louis turnover and getting chances of their own. Elliott was rock-solid for 59 minutes and 28 seconds, but the Kings pressure finally broke through and Justin Williams tied the game 1-1 on a shot from a bad angle. You could feel the rush of air as 17612 fans gasped in shock.
You could almost feel that tying goal coming as the Blues were skating backwards for much of the 3rd period. I’ve seen their inability to put other teams away as a problem all season long, and it reared its ugly head Tuesday night. I know that Hitchcock’s plan is that of defense first, and when St. Louis executes it well they’re tough to beat, but when they only score 1 goal it leaves little margin for error.Their inability to score certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The game could’ve easily been a 4-0 or 5-0 St. Louis win. The Blues peppered Quick with shots from start to finish but he stymied them 42 times through regulation and into overtime. He quickly went from hero to goat however, when in a reversal of fortunes he literally handed St. Louis the victory.
Credit the Scottrade Center crowd for sticking by the Blues and bringing the noise in the extra frame. After the catastrophic collapse late in the 3rd I was feeling sick, and I’m sure fans everywhere had a similar experience. Play in overtime was lively, and moved up and down the ice with fervor. Then another near-disaster struck: with just under 8 minutes to play in overtime, Shattenkirk took a double-minor High Sticking penalty and gave LA a 4 minute power-play.
St. Louis has been great killing penalties in the last few weeks, climbing to 4th in the league on home ice, but 4 minutes might as well have been an hour. Those pesky Blues didn’t quit when their backs were to the wall. They managed to keep the puck out of their zone and sent it all the way back down behind the LA net. Being shorthanded, the Blues were not called for icing and Steen barreled into the zone, forcing Quick to play the puck. A moment’s hesitation cost him and the Kings the game. Steener took the puck off Quick’s stick and wrapped-around the game-winner.
The crowd erupted and the Blues celebrated the win, snatched back from the jaws of defeat. It was an emotionally draining game as a fan and it was only opening night! The teams will face-off again Thursday in St. Louis and the Blues will attempt to reassert their home ice advantage. If they can bring the kind of energy they displayed Tuesday night things should go well. The 4th line of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter, and Ryan Reaves once again proved their worth, wrecking havoc in the LA zone all night long. Their hits were huge and board-rattling. Jaden Schwartz was a beast on the puck and in the corners, maybe surprising the Kings as he’s only 5’10” and weighs 190. He plays about 6’5″.
St. Louis has a lot of things going for them and they’ll recharge the batteries today, ice down some bruises, and be ready for the Kings again Thursday night. This town has playoff fever, here’s hoping LA leaves singing the blues.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!