The surprising Los Angeles Kings will shoot for a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals, as they host the second-seeded St. Louis Blues in tonight's Game 3 at the Staples Center.
Although they finished just two points behind Phoenix for this season's Pacific Division title, the Kings entered this postseason as the eighth seed in the West, but is now just two wins away from reaching the conference finals for the first time since 1993.
Los Angeles stunned the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the opening round, ousting last year's Western Conference champions in five games, and the Kings have jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over the Blues in this conference semifinal matchup.
The Kings outscored the Blues by an 8-3 margin in the first two games in St. Louis and LA has a chance to end the series on home ice. Los Angeles, which will also host Game 4 on Sunday, was 22-14-5 as the host during the regular season and was 1-1 at home against Vancouver in Round 1. The Kings are 6-1 in this postseason overall.
After dropping a 3-1 decision in the opener of this set, the Blues were dealt a 5-2 setback in Monday's Game 2 at Scottrade Center. Anze Kopitar scored twice, while Mike Richards and Jeff Carter also scored in a four-goal first period.
Justin Williams finished with a goal and an assist, while Dustin Brown added three helpers for the Kings. Jonathan Quick, who came into the game with a 1.49 goals against average and a .955 save percentage, allowed two goals on 29 shots in Monday's win.
"Nothing is done yet. They have a good team, and I'm sure if we let them off the hook they can do some damage," cautioned Kopitar.
The Blues, who were this season's Central Division champions, are just 1-16 when falling behind 2-0 in a best-of-seven series. The franchise's lone series win after losing the first two games came against Minnesota in the 1972 Stanley Cup quarterfinals.
Andy McDonald and Matt D'Agostini each scored a goal for the Blues, who downed San Jose in the first round to win a playoff series for the first time since 2002.
"They just came out firing, and we weren't ready physically or mentally," Blues forward T.J. Oshie admitted.
Brian Elliott allowed all five goals on 21 shots. Elliott will start again tonight since Jaroslav Halak has been ruled out for the remainder of this series with a lower-body injury. Halak was injured in Game 2 of the Blues' first-round victory over the San Jose Sharks after a collision with teammate Barret Jackman
Halak and Elliott essentially split time between the pipes during the regular season, with the former making 46 starts and compiling a 1.97 goals against average and Elliott posting a 1.56 GAA over 38 games -- 36 starts.
Jake Allen has suited up as the backup since Halak's injury and he made his NHL debut in net for St. Louis in the third period of Monday's Game. Allen's appearance was shortlived and uneventful as it lasted just 1:07 and he didn't face a shot.
St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo did not play in Game 2, but he's expected to be a game-time decision for tonight. He was injured in Game 1 after his head hit the boards on a check from Kings forward Dwight King. Ian Cole took Pietrangelo's place in the lineup and skated close to 11 minutes in Game 2.
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.