The St. Louis Blues once led their first round playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings by 2 games to none. Losing 3-2 to the Kings in overtime Wednesday night at Scottrade Center cost the Blues the game, the series lead (they’re now down 3 games to 2) and home ice advantage. Slava Voynov scored 8 minutes into the extra frame and St. Louis now faces elimination in Game 6 in LA.
The Blues had an opportunity to put the Kings up against a wall Wednesday night. With a win the Blues would have re-taken the series lead and maintained their home-ice edge, knowing that even an LA win in Game 6 would mean coming back to St. Louis to finish things. Including playoff games, the Blues had won eight straight in the friendly confines and only allowed 8 goals in that span- one per game, a stingy GAA by any measure.
Things have been different since losing Game 4 earlier this week. The Blues have now given up SEVEN goals in two games, and it beginning to look a lot like February. That’s how far back you”d have to go to see the Blues lose more than 3 games in a row. They came up short Wednesday despite out-shooting LA 36-25.
Jonathan Quick was once again near the top of his game as the Blues swarmed the LA net and out-shot the Kings 12-8 in the 1st period. Unable to solve Quick (and of course, firing a few shots high and wide) the Blues missed their chance at taking the game’s first lead, though that hasn’t meant a lot in this series so far.
The Kings struck first, just 14 seconds into period 2, stunning the Scottrade crowd. The Blues were careless and had iced the puck right off the initial face-off, which brought the puck down into their end. Until Game 4, St. Louis had been dominating the dots, actually leading the entire league in face-off win percentage, but these last two game saw LA turn the tide and it cost the Blues. Patrik Berglund got tossed from the circle and LA won the second draw, fired a puck on net and Brian Elliott couldn’t hang on to the rebound. Jeff Carter banged it in for his second goal of the series. Alex Steen was able to tie the game 1-1 later in the 2nd, which instantly brought the crowd back to life and gave St. Louis reason to believe they were still in the game.
That feeling was short-lived. Special teams weren’t prominent in Game 5 with only three penalties called all night, but a Tripping call against Barret Jackman inside the final minute of the 2nd period put the Blues down a man entering the 3rd. The Kings took advantage and Carter scored again inside the first minute of the period to put the Kings back on top, 2-1. The rest of the game felt desperate for St. Louis. They continued firing shots on Quick but looked to be on their heels as LA dug in and basically beat the Blues at their own game, being stingy in their own zone and preventing the Blues from getting the puck in very deep.
With time ticking away and only 44 seconds left Alex Pietrangelo fired a shot that found its way through traffic (Jaden Schwartz was camped in front of Quick) and into the net to tie the game 2-2. The Scottrade Center crowd erupted. The Blues had life and the game went into overtime.
It really felt like the momentum had shifted entirely back to the St. Louis side of the ice. Going into the extra frame I was certain the Blues would score and win Game 5. The line of Schwartz, David Backes, and Steen had been playing like gangbusters all night. The Blues were fired up, the fans were in a frenzy. It wasn’t to be, however, as 8 minutes in Voynov led an odd-man rush into the St. Louis zone and ripped off a shot that got through Elliott’s pads for the game-winner.
What a let-down. The first thought was that Ells most certainly should’ve stopped the puck. He looked out of position for the first time in 2 weeks. Upon further review you can see Schwartz, working hard to backcheck into the play, get his stick on Voynov’s hands just as the shot was made altering the direction of the puck. Ells was ready for a high shot but it got cut off and stayed low. Such is the way of overtime and the playoffs.
Schwartz, Steen, Vladimir Sobotka, and the CPR line all played out of their minds Wednesday night. Inexplicably, we didn’t see the CPR line much at all in the 3rd period despite them giving the Blues some of the best shifts of the game, especially down below the red line in the offensive zone. Equally as mind boggling was the fact that throughout the game AND into overtime we saw Andy McDonald and Chris Stewart on the ice, shift after shift, though they did absolutely nothing and haven’t really at all in this first round series.
I’m not usually a fan of dramatic changes to the lineup, but I’d really like to see Coach Hitchcock make some major changes for Game 6. I’d be glad to see Kris Russell in for Roman Polak. I would much rather see a big kid like Dimitrij Jaskin skating instead of McDonald. Mac looks too small and too lost out there against the Kings and is hurting the team. Stewart, well, he’s been invisible but at least he has the size to match up with LA.
Game 6 is tonight in Los Angeles. The Blues need a win to stay alive and bring the series back home to St. Louis for the finale Monday night. Elliott shouldn’t be effected by the overtime loss, he’s been stellar and will continue to play well. It’s Quick the Blues need to worry about, and they’ll need to fire on all cylinders to have any chance of winning. Hitchcock said after Wednesday’s game that it was about the best the Blues have played. Their best didn’t look good enough to beat the Kings. St. Louis has failed to find that extra gear required to succeed in the post-season. They better find it tonight.
GO BLUES! Long Live the Note!