The Blues were supposed to lose tonight, they played like they were supposed to lose tonight, they even had excuses pouring out during the game that had the feeling that they were going to lose tonight. Call it luck, call it West Coast Magic, call what you want but the Blues somehow pulled out a 2-1 shootout win against the Kings tonight, winning in SoCal for the first time since 2011. Forward all thank you's, donations and sacrifices to Brian Elliott, your godly savior and all around good guy.
Down Paul Stastny, Jay Bouwmeester and Jake Allen, the Blues couldn't afford to come out flat and allow the Kings to get into their game early and surprisingly the Blues succeeded in doing so. Shots came at a premium in the first for both teams, more so for the Blues as they only put 3 on Jonathon Quick, but the overall feel of the period was a positive one for St. Louis.
Alexander Steen would get called for a very questionable goalie interference penalty when he tried to sneak between Quick and the back of the net. On the ensuing kill, Christian Ehrhoff passed up an open net and made one pass to many in what was the best chance of the period for either side.
The one negative in the period for the Blues was Robert Bortuzzo, who took two minors in the period, putting an already tired team in an unenviable position early on. The Blues would fortunately weather the storm but how would it affect them the rest of the way? This period was so basic that the highlight of the period was checking my Powerball ticket to see how badly I guessed on the numbers.
The second began like the first ended with few shots and fewer real potential. The Kings ability to close the gaps in the neutral zone effectively shut down anything the Blues put forth and on the flip side the Kings didn't get much set up in the Blues zone. Bortuzzo sort of made up for his mistakes in the first by throwing the gloves down with Luke Schenn after he dropped Dmitrij Jaskin. While stepping up did allow a breakaway chance to the Kings, the fight started before the shot got off, effectively ending the play.
LA would finally scratch Elliott when Milan Lucic muscled the puck from Colton Parayko and sent a backhand to Anze Kopitar in front of the net who waited out Elliott and backhanded it to the top of the net.
Normally this type of goal against this team would deflate the Blues and most fans might have shut the TV off at this point because two goals would be needed to win now and when was the last time we scored two or more in back to back games? To their credit, this team didn't back down being down one. Jori Lehtera would find himself on a partial break a few minutes after the LA goal but Quick made an easy save by his standards keeping the lead at 1.
Vladimir Tarasenko would follow up on the play, though, hold the zone and wait for Alex Pietrangelo to clear some space before slipping him the puck. Looking up Petro would see two LA defenders part, giving him a clear lane to the goal and he ripped a shot on net.
Boy what a shot that was too. The goal was Pietrangelo's first in 22 games and it couldn't have come at a better time. Elliott would come up big yet again a few minutes later as LA sought to retake the lead. Jeff Carter wound around the back of the net and guided a pass to Tanner Pearson who was alone in the slot but Elliott stoned him twice much to his chagrin.
The Blues were only able to muster 4 shots in the second but they were able to keep the game tied heading into the third.
The third period devolved back into the first period as both teams almost seemed to turtle and wait out the other to try and get the one point. The only real consequence was Brayden McNabb getting 'nabbed' for an apparent head shot to Magnus Paajarvi, which left the forward bloody and slightly confused. The Blues were handed a 5 minute power play while McNabb was shown the door and maybe a suspension.
With all the suffering over the last few weeks this power play could have snapped everything back into place.....But it didn't. Not only did the Blues fail to hold the zone for a majority of the time, they allowed Carter to get a shorthanded breakaway that Elliott had to turn aside to preserve the game. 5 minutes later the Blues had mustered 2 shots to the Kings 1 shorthanded attempt.
The Blues did manage to almost double their shots for the game this period but the real story was Brian Elliott standing on his head when needed to keep this game winnable. Elliott stopped 24 of 25 shots through three periods but heading to overtime he would have to be even better with the Kings talent coming out.
This round of OT was a lot slower then I thought it would be with who each team was able to put on the ice. Both teams traded decent chances with Quick coming up largest with a stacked pad save on Tarasenko without even hitting the ice.(Side note: Quick is the most athletic goalie I have seen since Hasek and while he doesn't the slinky spine, the ease with which he stops star players is admirable. I hate losing to the Kings but I have a grudging respect when its Quick in net.)
For the second straight night, the Blues would go to a shoot out in California.
The Blues would take a 1-0 lead in the shootout thanks to this slick move by Steen:
Elliott would deny Carter to set Tarasenko up for the winner but for the second game in a row he would come in and just shoot, not making a move. Now maybe he has seen something in John Gibson and Quick that says just shoot but its odd seeing someone with his skills not even getting a goalie to try and bite on a move.
Marian Gaborik would, as usual, knot up the shootout at 1 and then we all settled in for another lengthy skills competition. After the Gaborik goal the next 8 shooters would be denied setting up Troy Brouwer to be the hero.
Now while watching the Ottawa game I made mention that TJ Oshie had been outplaying Brouwer recently. No sooner had I finished that sentence was when Brouwer scored his goal, leading to the his recent run of solid play. Now I am not saying I broke his slump but for my next trick I will find some comparison between Jaskin's lack of goals and Ryan Reaves scoring.
While the recent play of the Blues has left much to be desired, they were able to secure 4 of a possible 6 points on a tough Pacific trip all while losing their #1 goalie, #1 Center and a solid defensemen. With a 5 game Eastern Conference block up next, the games have to improve and a minimum of 7 of 10 points is needed for us to feel happy about where we stand.
The Devils arrive in town Tuesday and an update on the injured Blues will likely come out Monday so stay tuned.
#3 - Alex Pietrangelo: First goal in 22 games and another solid performance while missing his partner
#2 - Anze Kopitar: G and always a thorn in our sides.
#1 - Brian Elliott: 26 saves including the game saving stop of Carter while on the power play