Western Quarter Final, Game 4: Kings Win 4-3, Series tied 2-2
LOS ANGELES – While I may end up little lighter in the wallet for paying royalties to borrow fellow Kings fan Rachel Levy’s line for my headline, it’s a good time to root for the silver-and-black nonetheless.
For the first time in this series, a team took a two-goal lead. Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Kings, it was their opponents. After an uplifting Game 3 win on Saturday, the Kings found themselves behind the 8-ball early as the St. Louis Blues scored twice in the first five minutes of Game 4 and appeared to set the tone for the rest of the game. Staples Center, which had been buzzing for hours before the puck drop, had all the life sucked out of it after David Backes and TJ Oshieeach scored to give St. Louis an early 2-0 lead.
But just when the skeptics thought the Kings were in a hole and that Jonathan Quick was way over his head, the defending champs suddenly weren’t offensively anemic anymore.
During the regular season, Jeff Carter was Los Angeles’ leading scorer but in the playoffs, he had yet to make any noise. If there was a time for Carter (as well as the rest of the team’s stars up front) to elevate his game, it was now. With his team down, Carter answered the bell taking a perfect feed from Mike Richards to slide it under Brian Elliott for his first goal of the postseason and pull the home team to within a goal.
Then, just under five minutes later, a mistake by Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold sent the Kings in on a 3-on-1 finished off by Dustin Penner who potted his first of the playoffs to tie the game. Despite being outshot 11-6, the Kings were right back in this game, neck-and-neck with their opponents.
In the second, though, TJ Oshie cashed in on his second goal of the night to regain the St. Louis lead and despite a physical middle frame, no one else scored.
Entering the third, the Kings knew they had their backs to the wall. Knowing they could return to St. Louis with the unenviable task of clawing back from a 3-1 series deficit, the Kings were determined to make a statement in the third – and that’s just what they did.
Like Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar was another of Los Angeles’ big guns who had failed to produce thus far in the postseason. In fact, the Slovenian entered Monday night having not scored in his last 20 outings. But at the 9:14 mark of the third, it was Dustin Brown (another quiet star thus far) picking up the puck behind the net and quickly feeding a wide-open Kopitar in front who made no mistake on Elliott, tying the game at 3.
Then, just 1:16 later with the Kings pressing for the go-ahead goal, Mike Richards wristed a shot that was tipped in by Justin Williams and just like that, the silver-and-black had their first lead of the night. But hold on. Thanks to an objection by Elliott, Williams’ stick appeared to be above the crossbar. The goal was under review, the evidence was inconclusive and the goal stood: 4-3 Kings.
While Staples Center was electric, there was still a lot of hockey left to be played and after the most offensively-charged game this postseason from either team, the Kings spent the latter of the third working as a solid defensive unit backed up Jonathan Quick who turned into his old reliable self stopping shots when he had to. While he only made 19 saves on the night, Quick’s late-game heroics were just as valuable as the contributions of the aforementioned Carter and Kopitar.
On the physical side of things, the Kings weren’t content on being doormats. St. Louis enforcer Ryan Reaves, who set the tone early in the series with his hard-hitting style, was run over most of Game 4, especially from Robyn Regehr who delivered a devastating board-crunching hit in the third to keep the big man at bay.
On this night, the Los Angeles Kings had what it took to be resilient, consistent and tough and thanks to their efforts, this series is now a best-of-three heading back to the Show Me State where the Kings look to break the undefeated streak of the home team in what has already turned out to be arguably the most exciting (save Ottawa vs. Montreal perhaps) series this postseason.