LOS ANGELES-Goaltender Jonathan Quick came into Game 6 of the NHL first round matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and the St. Louis Blues stopping 146-out-of-155 goal attempts. He blocked 21 of the 22 shots that came his way Friday night.
Quick’s defense would prove to be the deciding gamebreaker in a highly competitive series that saw the Kings fall down 2-0 early in the series. On a night where both teams played exceptionally well on the defensive end, Quick’s stingy play was the difference in the Kings moving on to the next round of the playoffs.
The Kings, undefeated in three games during the strike-shortened regular season against the Blues, picked up goals from Drew Doughty and Dustin Penner to defeat St. Louis 2-1 in front of a raucous crowd at Staples Center to claim their fourth win of the series.
The Kings don’t have to worry about traveling cross-country to face their next opponent. They will now face either the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks in the second round once respective their series has concluded. The Kings will concentrate about either of those teams at the appropriate time.
But for now-at least a day or so, the team can chill out and enjoy winning four straight games to snatch momentum and the series away from a highly formidable club.
“It was kind of like a sweep, I guess,” said Penner, who hit the game-winning goal for the Kings at the 19:59 mark in the second period. “They played a great series. They got unlucky a few times. I think we got lucky.”
Winning and getting this far in the postseason takes both a lot of skill and a bit of luck. Either way, the Kings will take it, beating the Blues for the second straight year in the playoffs. Last season, the Kings swept St. Louis 4-0 on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. This was a much tougher grind for Los Angeles.
The Blues showed the Kings at the beginning of the series that were not in awe of the reigning NHL champs. By handing Los Angeles two consecutive defeats on the road, St. Louis pushed the Kings to near elimination mode. Message received. The Kings came back with two wins at Staples Center to knot the series.
Game 4 had to be the turning point in the series. After dropping the previous game to the Kings, S. Louis jumped on Los Angeles 2-0 in Game 4 and provided some anxious moments for Los Angeles and their fan base. But the Kings, showing off their resiliency, rallied to win that game 4-3.
Then the always pivotal Game 5 swung in favor of the Kings, leaving the Blues down and looking up in a series they seemingly had control of. On the brink of elimination, St. Louis played with the energy and fervor of a team in Game 6 not wanting to being shown the postseason exit door.
Staring a potential Game 7 on the road in the face and the real possibility of being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, the Kings responded with the same amount effort. Doughty broke a scoreless tie and got the Kings on the board first when he scored his goal at the 12: 37 mark of the first period.
Taking an assist from Colin Frasier, Doughty hit a wicked shot past St. Louis goalie Brian Elliot to give the Kings a 1-0 advantage. That lead would last barely one period. St. Louis tied the game at the 4:39 mark in the second session when Roman Polak managed to slip the puck past Quick off an assist from David Backes and Chris Porter.
But just before the period ended, Penner set off the Staples Center crowd into a wild frenzy when he scored his game-winning goal after taking an assist from Rob Scuderi. The Kings then rode on the defense of Quick the rest of the way to clinch their first round series.
In terms of the team responding to being down two games to none before storming all the way back to win four straight games, Quick said it was just a matter of the Kings taking it one contest at a time.
We didn’t win four straight; we won one game,” Quick said. We put it out of our minds and just tried to win the next one. That’s what we’re going to have to do next series.”
Quick added that the team being able to bounce back had some to with the way they played last season.
“Whatever happens the night before doesn’t really mean anything, you just kind of regroup,” said Quick. “I think that comes from that run that we had last year. We have that confidence that even when we’re done we can get some games and get back into it…Guys battled hard. Any game could have gone either way. We were very fortunate.”