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ST. LOUIS -- The Kings had the momentum of a big win three nights earlier. They had a hot goaltender. They were facing a injury-plagued team coming off a loss the previous night. Name the presumed advantage, and the Kings probably had it Thursday night.
One good period was clearly not enough for the Kings. They survived sloppy play during the first two periods and were tied going into the third, but the St. Louis Blues scored twice and picked up a 6-4 victory over the Kings at Scottrade Center.
Alexander Steen scored the go-ahead goal for St. Louis with 2:53 remaining.
``It's definitely a lost opportunity,'' Kings center Anze Kopitar said. ``We had the better team, but if you don't play like it, it's not going to cut it in this league. Maybe on paper we had a better team tonight, but we definitely didn't show that on the ice.''
The game had a how-did-that-happen vibe, nearly from the start. The Blues trotted out a makeshift lineup -- having lost top defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Erik Johnson within the last week -- and played scrappy but sloppily for most of Thursday's game.
The Kings, though, obliged the Blues with their own messiness, and weren't helped when defenseman Willie Mitchell left the game late in the first period with a lower-body injury.
After the Kings fell behind 4-2 late in the second period, Wayne Simmonds and Dustin Brown scored within the period's final five minutes to tie the game, and the scene appeared to be set. The Kings, with momentum and confidence, would have a good chance to dominate the third period against the tired, hobbled Blues.
For the most part, that's what happened, as the Kings outshot the Blues 12-7 and easily got the better of the scoring chances, but the Kings couldn't convert any of them.
That inefficiency hurt the Kings late. With the Kings less than three minutes away from sending the game to overtime, and at least earning one point, a breakdown off a faceoff led to Steen's game-winning goal at the other end.
St. Louis' Jay McClement won a defensive-zone face-off, and the Blues beat the Kings up the ice for a rush. McClement lost control of the puck after he entered the Kings' zone, but Steen picked it up near the top of the circle and beat Jonathan Quick with a sharp wrist shot with 2:53 remaining to give the Blues a 5-4 lead.
``It was a competitive game,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``The Blues, they played a competitive game. It gets to a tie game, and we had a breakdown off of a faceoff loss in the offensive zone. It came down to that one play, when you look at it, at a 4-4 game in the third period. We just lost our assignments.''
David Backes added an empty-net power-play goal in the final minute.
So the Kings were unable to build off one of their most pleasing victories of the season, a 5-0 victory over Detroit on Monday in which Quick made a career-high 51 saves. Three days later, the Blues got to Quick for five goals on 30 shots.
``It's frustrating, for sure,'' Kings winger Ryan Smyth said. ``As a group, everybody has got to buy in. I think it's important that we stick to the game plan and do all the little things right, then you're going to get the results. We knew that these guys played last night, and we let up. We can't do that.''
Kopitar and Smyth also had goals for the Kings -- Kopitar's sixth in his last six games -- and Jack Johnson had two assists, but it wasn't enough as the Kings also lost early leads of 1-0 and 2-1. The Kings had won four of their previous five games, but now head to Nashville for Saturday's game trying to regain some momentum in the middle game of their five-game road trip.
Murray didn't want to hear about the Blues' woes, which included a laundry list of injuries and a tough loss to Detroit less than 24 hours before they took the ice against the Kings.
Murray cut off a reporter's question that mentioned the Blues' injuries, no doubt mindful that his team was playing without Matt Greene -- who was a morning scratch because of an upper-body injury -- plus forwards Scott Parse and Brad Richardson.
Then the Kings lost Mitchell, who left the game after one shift in the second period.
Still, the Blues have been dealt blow after blow. In addition to the recent losses of Johnson and Pietrangelo, they're also playing without regular contributors Andy McDonald, Roman Polak, David Perron and T.J. Oshie. That's one-fourth of a team.
The table was set for a good effort by the Kings on Thursday, but instead they were inconsistent. They twice held leads in the first two periods but quickly lost both.
``We need to look at ourselves in the mirror before we worry about other teams,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``We had a lot more battle (in the third period) after we scored two goals at the end of the second. That kind of gave us momentum, but we have to find a way, as a team, to come out like that. We just have to have everyone going.''
The Kings weren't able to score on a 5-on-3 advantage late in the first period, but they did get a power-play goal on the latter penalty. Johnson rifled a slap shot from the top of the right circle, through mild traffic in front, and Smyth was credited with the deflection and the goal. Dustin Brown also got assist with 3:01 remaining in the period.
The Kings' lead lasted less than two minutes, as the Blues tied the game with 1:15 remaining in the first period. Quick made an initial save, but with the puck loose in front of the net, McClement put a backhand shot past Quick to make it 1-1.
A 5-on-3 goal early in the second period gave the lead back to the Kings. After a series of passes, Kopitar fired and scored from the high slot exactly two minutes into the period. Drew Doughty and Johnson got assists as the Kings took a 2-1 lead.
Once again, the Kings' lead didn't last long, as the Blues tied the game 2-2 just more than three minutes after Kopitar's goal. The Blues won a battle for the puck behind the Kings' net, and it got centered to Vladimir Sobotka, who scored from close range 5:07 into the second period.
The Blues then took their first lead of the game, at 3-2 with a power-play goal at the 9:46 mark, when Brad Winchester, stationed directly in front of Quick, tipped in a slap shot from Carlo Colaiacovo.
The teams then combined for three goals within the final five minutes of the second period.
First, the Blues took a 4-2 lead with 4:53 remaining. After a faceoff win, the puck was pushed back to Eric Brewer, who held it for a moment, then ripped a slap shot past Quick.
The Kings made it a one-goal game again 46 seconds later. After a scramble behind the net, Simmonds picked up the puck in the slot and beat Ty Conklin with a wrist shot with 4:07 remaining. Kyle Clifford and Michal Handzus picked up assists.
The sixth goal of the period made it a 3-3 tie with 2:40 remaining in the second period. Rob Scuderi's slap shot was deflected on the way to the net, and Brown picked up the puck in front and beat Conklin before he could adjust. Kopitar also picked up an assist.
``We gained a little momentum there,'' Smyth said. ``I thought we were competing. We were finding ways to get the puck to the net and getting some rebounds. For whatever reason, we let off. I thought it was a good battle for most of the second, and then in the third there, they picked it up.''
The third period was scoreless until the Blues took a 5-4 lead with 2:53 remaining. McClement carried the puck into the Kings' zone and had it knocked away, but Steen picked it up near the top of the left circle and beat Quick with a wrist shot.
``There was some good momentum,'' Murray said. ``We had some good things going in the third period, before they ended up scoring that winning goal. I thought there were four or five shifts that were really good, lots of things happening around the net. We had a couple grade-A scoring opportunities and didn't finish, and they come down in the end, off a faceoff, and they take advantage of their opportunity.''