The eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings will try to grab a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals, as they visit the St. Louis Blues for tonight's Game 2 at Scottrade Center.
The Kings upset the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in five games in the first round and are off to a strong start in this series after posting a 3-1 victory over the second-seeded Blues in Game 1. Los Angeles will now shoot for a two- game edge before the series shifts to Southern California for Games 3 and 4.
Jonathan Quick stole yet another game for the Kings on Saturday, as the Vezina Trophy candidate stopped 28-of-29 shots to help LA win the opener in St. Louis. After turning in a 1.95 goals-against average over 69 games in the regular season, Quick has been even better in the playoffs, compiling a 5-1 record to go with a 1.49 GAA and .955 save percentage.
The Blues did solve Quick early in Game 1, as David Backes staked St. Louis to a 1-0 lead 9:16 into the first period. However, LA's star backstop settled into the game and turned aside 18 shots over the final 40 minutes to record the victory.
"You expect a team to come out flying the first ten minutes on home ice like that," said Quick. "This team is no different, obviously. They're one of the best teams on home ice for a reason. That first ten minutes shows you probably why. They really kind of put us on our heels for a little bit."
The Blues were 30-6-5 at home during the regular season, but are 2-2 at Scottrade Center in these playoffs. St. Louis lost Game 1 of the opening round on home ice to San Jose before winning the next four contests to take the series.
Los Angeles is 4-0 as the road team in the playoffs after posting an 18-13-10 record as the guest in the regular season.
Dustin Penner posted a goal and an assist on Saturday for the Kings, who are in the conference semifinals for the first time since 2001. Matt Greene and Slava Voynov each tallied a goal for Los Angeles.
Brian Elliott stopped 26 shots in the loss for the Blues, who are coming off their first playoff series victory since 2002.
"We need much better play from our top players, much more committed play from our top players, if we expect to move on and win a hockey game on Monday," said St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Although Los Angeles went 0-for-5 on the power play in Game 1, the Kings scored a short-handed goal and also forced St. Louis to go 0-for-3 on the man advantage.
"The difference is the special teams, you just thought it would be a little bit different than that," said Backes. "Giving up a shorthanded goal at the end of the second there was not ideal by any means. We kind of took a rest and they stayed going and that's the result."
In addition to getting beat in Game 1, the Blues also lost top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a possible concussion. Pietrangelo, who was fifth in scoring among NHL defensemen with 51 points this season, left the game after being sent face-first into the boards by Los Angeles forward Dwight King late in the second period. King was given two minutes for boarding on the play and LA tallied its short-handed goal while killing off the penalty.
Pietrangelo did not play at all in the third period and did not practice on Sunday with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. The 22-year-old is doubtful for tonight's contest.
This is the third time these teams are meeting in the playoffs. The Blues swept the previous two series in 1998 and 1969.
Neither of these teams has made it to the conference finals in quite some time. St. Louis last made it to the third round when it bowed out in five games to Colorado in the 2001 Western Conference finals. Meanwhile, the Kings haven't been past the second round since Wayne Gretzky led the franchise to its only Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1993.
Game 3 of this best-of-seven series is scheduled for Thursday in Los Angeles.