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|Scooperman - Tue, 22 Nov 2011 00:00:00 EST|
|Hockey Trivia With "Twi-Hards" - Tue, 22 Nov 2011|
|11/22/11 - Plays Of The Week - Tue, 22 Nov 2011|
|Scoreboard Feature: Favorite TV Show - Mon, 21 Nov 2011|
|11/19/11 - Post Game - Anze Kopitar - Sat, 19 Nov 2011|
|11/19/11 - Post Game - Matt Greene - Sat, 19 Nov 2011|
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ST. LOUIS -- When a Terry Murray-coached team meets a Ken Hitchcock-coached team, the game will almost always resemble more of a dogfight than a beauty pageant.
It took the Kings a while to scratch off their fleas Tuesday night, but once they did, they showed some bite. The Kings rebounded from an uneven -- and often brutal -- first period, turned in a strong second period and then got two huge third-period goals to beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 before a crowd of 18,178 at Scottrade Center.
St. Louis tied the game 2-2 with 7:32 remaining in the third period, but less than two minutes later, a point shot by Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell deflected off a defender and found the back of the net.
Mitchell’s goal, his first of the season, held up as the game-winner. The Kings held on for a scratch-and-claw victory over one of the NHL’s best home teams and one of its stingiest teams, period.
The Blues had not allowed more than two regulation goals in November. They had also been 7-1-1 at home and had been 4-0-2 since they hired Hitchcock to replace Davis Payne two weeks ago.
``We had trouble coming into this building last year,’’ Kings center and alternate captain Anze Kopitar said, ``and it’s not that you’re thinking about that but it seems like against them it’s always a real grind game without a lot of scoring chances. Whatever you get, you’ve got to capitalize on them.’’
Murray and Hitchcock, the NHL’s two oldest coaches, have been going head-to-head for two decades. Both are old-school coaches whose teams thrive in gritty, tight-checking games. For the Kings to win, they would have to take advantage of their best scoring chances, and that’s what they did.
The deflection on Mitchell’s game-winning goal was fortunate, but the Kings also worked for either other two goals, as they scored by forcing turnovers, making nice passes and converting them into goals.
Kopitar’s 10th goal of the season -- in 21 games -- came on the power play in the second period and tied the game 1-1. It came from a nice steal and pass from Mike Richards, and Richards got rewarded in the third period. That’s when Andrei Loktionov forced a turnover, then fed Richards for a one-time goal to give the Kings a 2-1 lead.
Mitchell’s goal was the golden third goal for the Kings, who have an 8-0-0 record this season when they score at least three goals. That was enough for goalie Jonathan Bernier, who was brilliant in the second period and solid in the other two, as he made 23 saves to improve his season record to 2-2-0.
Bernier made a game-changing save in the second period, with the game tied 1-1, when stopped a 2-on-1 chance by the Blues and got a glove on a point-blank shot by Patrik Berglund.
``Obviously with that bad first (goal), you feel like you’ve got to step up and make those big saves and give our team a chance to get back in the game, and that’s what we did,’’ Bernier said. ``I think from when we scored that first one, we kept going and going, and we never stopped battling. That’s the reward, when you work that hard.’’
Richards had the multi-point game, and was also 15-of-16 on faceoffs as the Kings won in St. Louis for just the third time in their last 11 attempts. The Kings outshot the Blues 28-25.
The Kings started the game with three new-look defensive pairs, as they had Rob Scuderi with Drew Doughty, Mitchell with Jack Johnson and Slava Voynov with Matt Greene. In the first 10 minutes, though, the Kings did nothing of consequence with the puck, and they faced an early deficit.
The Blues scored 67 seconds into the game to take a 1-0 lead. They worked the puck out of the corner in the Kings' zone and, after a quick scramble, Alexander Steen found open ice in the slot, jumped on the puck and beat Bernier with a wrist shot. T.J. Oshie got an assist.
The Kings tied the game with a power-play goal 7:36 into the second period. Richards won the puck from St. Louis' Barret Jackman in the corner, then quickly fed a centering pass toward Kopitar, who pushed it into the net from close range for his 10th goal of the season to make it a 1-1 game.
``I don’t think the first period was very good overall,’’ Kopitar said. ``Yeah, we had some chances, but it wasn’t the game that we’re supposed to play. (Bernier) kept us in it. Going into the room down 1-0, we just made sure that it was addressed, and coming out of the game for the second period, I think we were moving our feet right away. We were moving the puck and as a result they were taking penalties and we were fortunate enough to capitalize on it.’’
The Kings took advantage of another Jackman turnover and took a 2-1 lead 4:41 into the third period. In the corner of the Blues' zone, Loktionov helped force the puck away from Barret Jackman. Loktionov then picked it up and centered toward Richards, who beat goalie Jaroslav Halak on a one-timer from the slot.
``A nice play by Loktionov,’’ Murray said. ``He ends up knocking the puck down and makes the play. Richards has been very hot and playing very well. He’s starting to feel comfortable in L.A. and we’re excited about that.’’
St. Louis tied the game 2-2 with 7:32 remaining in the third period. Matt D'Agostini carried the puck below the Kings' goal line, then pushed the puck back. Vladimir Sobotka beat Doughty to the front of the net and beat Bernier with a close-range one-timer. Kris Russell also got an assist.
Mitchell got the lead back for the Kings just 1:43 later. Simon Gagne pushed the puck to the blue line, and Mitchell shot from the left point. With Justin Williams and a couple other players running traffic, the shot deflected off St. Louis' Scott Nichol and got past Halak to give the Kings a 3-2 lead with 5:49 remaining in the third period.
The Blues did not leave the ice happy. With 1.5 seconds remaining, Doughty was called for cross-checking when he hit Oshie in the corner. Oshie went down hard and appeared to favor his shoulder, and the teams pushed and jawed, and Doughty received a minor penalty with the game all but over.
``It was a difficult game,’’ Murray said. ``St. Louis came out in the first period and they were putting a lot of pressure, really on the puck, over the top of us. We had opportunities to pass the puck on a couple of those breakouts, and we just made a poor pass, and that brought the puck right back into our end. So there was a lot going on very early, a lot of pressure, and it ended up being a pretty exciting hockey game.’’