12:16 AM CDT, May 11, 2013
The crowd yelled for Dustin Penner to shoot as the final seconds of the second period ticked off the clock Friday at Staples Center. His teammates yelled for Penner to shoot and the coaches joined the chaotic chorus.
Penner, not known for always taking coaches' advice, listened this time.
“If you don't try you don't know,” he said.
Because he tried, and because his long shot glanced off the stick of St. Louis defenseman Roman Polak and changed direction enough to catch goaltender Brian Elliott off guard, the Kings took and held a one-goal lead that launched them into the second round of the playoffs.
Penner's goal, scored with two-tenths of a second left in the second period, proved the difference in a 2-1 victory that closed out the Blues in six tense and bruising games. The shot heard 'round Southern California allowed the fifth-seeded Kings to rebound after losing the first two games of this series to the fourth-seeded Blues, a rare accomplishment in postseason play.
“That's kind of like a sweep, I guess,” said Penner, who has three game-winners among his five career playoff goals for the Kings.
The Kings, who have won 10 consecutive home games, don't yet know whom they will face next or when the series will start.
If the second-seeded Ducks beat No. 7 Detroit at Anaheim on Sunday, the Kings will face the Ducks and start on the road. If the Red Wings upset the Ducks, the No. 5 Kings will open at home against the No. 6 San Jose Sharks, who swept the Vancouver Canucks out of the first round.
Mike Richards said he had no preference between the Ducks and the Sharks and was content to take it easy for a few days.
“I'm going to sit back and watch and see who we play,” he said. “Both teams obviously have world-class players and world-class goaltenders, so it's going to be tough either way.”
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, approaching the playoff-MVP level he reached last spring, stopped 21 shots Friday and 167 of 177 in the series, a .944 save percentage. Every game was decided by one goal, most of them played at an exceptionally high level. Friday's game didn't quite meet that standard, but what mattered to the Kings is that it moved them forward in defense of their Stanley Cup championship.
Quick was typically low-key afterward, shrugging off the pressure the Blues exerted. “You expect that. They've done it all six games,” he said.
“Right now the next step is get our legs back under us and get some rest and make sure everybody is ready for the next one.”
The Kings swept the Blues out of the second round last season during a dominant playoff run. The early stages of this journey have been more perilous but might be more rewarding because they're developing and sustaining mental toughness to go along with their muscles.
The Kings scored the game's first goal, at 12:37 of the opening period. Colin Fraser had the puck on the left side and left a drop pass for an onrushing Drew Doughty. The Blues' defensemen backed up and gave Doughty plenty of room, and he took advantage of that to fake a shot, use Polak as a screen, and rifle a fierce shot that beat Elliott up high.
The Blues matched that at 4:39 of the second period. Polak's long slap shot
deflected off the body of forward Chris Porter in
the slot, changed directions, and got past Quick at
The Kings got a break on their go-ahead goal. Penner's long shot deflected off Polak and sailed upward, eluding Elliott after he had sunk to his knees and sailing into the net. The goal was reviewed at the NHL's Toronto office and deemed to be good.
“They played a great series,” Penner said. “They got unlucky a few times. We got lucky.”
And they got to go on to the second round and give themselves a chance to write a sequel to last season's triumph.
“We still have some work to do,” Richards said. “We played well enough to win the series. We can still get better and that was our goal from day one this year — improve right through to the last day.”
With that last day, they hope, coming sometime in late June.@helenenothelen
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times