Blues stayed focused; Oshie returns; Hitch finally sees OT goal
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It would have been easy to crumble.
The Blues have done it before, wasted an effort that should have resulted in victory, only to see it somehow slip and leave them wondering what went wrong.
Tuesday in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Kings, there was no angst, no panic and no worry.
After losing a 1-0 lead with 31.6 seconds remaining when Justin Williams tied the game 1-1 for the Kings, the Blues found a way on Alexander Steen's second goal of the game, a shorthanded effort with 6:34 into overtime.
The Blues were serving a double-minor to Kevin Shattenkirk, who high-sticked the Kings' Dustin Penner. It would have added to the heartbreak of past playoff heartaches, but the Blues didn't waver as they came off the ice at the end of regulation.
"They get a late late goal in the third period there, but I think for our guys on the bench, I think we were happy with the effort that we put forth in the first three periods and realized that we did a lot of good things and not to get too down," forward Andy McDonald said. "If we continued to play that way, we could come out with a win. I didn't see us drop like perhaps we had dropped in the past. I thought our confidence stayed pretty high and guys got refocused pretty quickly."
"It was tough, unfortunate to get that goal (against us) at the end of the third, but I liked our vibe going into the dressing room after the third," Steen said. "It was a very positive, like get-this-done vibe. Everybody almost felt like we got determined from it. That overtime, both teams kind of sat back a little bit, then they got some chances and Ells (Brian Elliott) made some big stops. That was a fortunate bounce behind the net (on the winner)."
* Hitch finally sees OT winner -- Fault Blues coach Ken Hitchcock for being short.
He could hear the roars, the screams and all the fist pumps. That's all the veteran coach needed to know that his team had just pulled off a Game 1 victory.
But Hitchcock wasn't able to see it firsthand. So when did he see it?
"I saw it about midnight last night," Hitchcock said. "I saw it on the highlights after the Anaheim-Detroit game. That's the first time I saw it.
"It was fortunate for us. They were a little better than we were in overtime. Alex was our best player, nice to see him get that goal."
* Oshie returns -- T.J. Oshie returned to the lineup against the Kings Tuesday after a 15-game layoff due to an ankle injury that required surgery to repair a stress fracture.
Oshie, who played 18 minutes, 1 second, was paired with fellow first round picks Patrik Berglund and David Perron. He replaced Vladimir Tarasenko in the lineup.
"The ankle felt great," Oshie said. "I think more so it was emotions and getting that first game under me. The first two periods felt a little better, slipped a little bit in the third. But that was more so erring on the side of caution as far as not letting them score a goal. But I felt really good and actually I'm surprised at how well I feel today."
Hitchcock called Oshie's game "OK," but gave him the benefit of the doubt.
"First go, OK. He got caught watching a little bit, but for a first game back after a month to walk into something like that's not fun," Hitchcock said. "I thought he did fine until he got tired. Then he started playing with his eyes maybe. I think he recognized that.
"He'll be better in Game 2. He's one of those guys for us that we need to be better, and I think he will be as he gets accustomed. That's a heck of a game to have to walk into after a month layoff."
* Expecting champs to bounce back -- The Blues know as well as they played Tuesday, they may have to be even better Thursday night.
"They're going to be better tomorrow, we've got to be better," Hitchcock said. "There's areas of our game we've got to be better. We're going to have to continually play better if we expect to push them out. They're not going to go anywhere easily.
"I think all of us feel like we can play better. There's individuals that can play better. There's team stuff that can play better. We like some of the things in our game, but we know we're going to get a completely different response tomorrow and we're going to have to be ready for it."
It was nice to get that monkey off their backs, as the Blues were 0-7-1 in their last eight against the Kings dating back to Feb. 3, 2012.
"What was the record again? How many in a row did they beat us? Eight in a row, right? You put that to rest," winger Chris Stewart said. "I thought we showed some things, but at the end of the day it’s one down, three to go. But you know they’re going to come out tomorrow a (ticked) off hockey team. They’re probably not too happy with the way they played. I thought we came out with the right attitude. We showed that we meant business. But we’re going to expect a big push-back tomorrow."
* Kings ready to respond -- The Kings held an optional skate Wednesday at Scottrade Center and are in an unfamiliar position, one they never dealt with a season ago: trailing in a series.
"We have to be quicker," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "They’re coming hard on their forecheck. They’re banging bodies. They’re creating those little turnovers and I think a lot of times when they created those turnovers they kind of went into panic mode and tried to make up for that mistake quickly, and I think that’s the wrong thing to do. You’ve kind of got to sit back, find where your guy is and create your own turnovers. That was the one area I think they're really dominated us in and we didn’t really get on our forecheck, which is one of the keys to our game and we need to do that in order to win the next one."