Sunday, May 5, 2013

Missed chances cost Blues in Game 3 loss to Kings

Failing to cash in on chances costly; St. Louis
falls to Los Angeles 1-0, series lead cut to 2-1

LOS ANGELES -- It was a chance to get a firm stranglehold on the series and put the defending Stanley Cup champs on the brink of elimination.

But what the Blues did -- or did not do -- was put the Los Angeles Kings right back in this series, and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

The Blues showed up to a gun battle in Saturday's pivotal Game 3 at Staples Center, but they forgot to bring their bullets. More times than not, they wound up firing blanks, and in the end, it cost them a game that was there to be had.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' David Backes (42) fires a backhand shot wide of Kings
goalie Jonathan Quick as Drew Doughty (8) trails the play Saturday.
Slava Voynov's in the second period was all the Kings would need to cut the Western Conference Quarterfinals to a 2-1 series as Jonathan Quick stopped all 3 shots he faced in a 1-0 Los Angeles win.

Game 4 is Monday night at Staples Center and will allow the Kings a chance to even the series at 2-2 or will the Blues gain the split and go back home for Game 5 with the chance to clinch?

The Blues could have put themselves in a good spot to clinch on Monday had they just been able to put away some of the golden opportunities they created but were unable to finish.

"We had our opportunities," Blues winger Alexander Steen said. "The power play, we had some 5-on-5 chances ... we've got to bury them. We've got to start making them pay for their mistakes. Today we didn't.

"I think we got our fair share of chances. We've just got to be a little bit more determined. We've got to find a way to score. Tonight, I didn't think it was Quick. I thought it was us. I thought we had our chances and we've got to start putting them away.

David Backes had the first big chance for the Blues, after he picked off a shorthanded opportunity, went in on Quick. It appeared that Drew Doughty got a stick in and slashed Backes, but he just misfired on a backhand midway through the first.

"I was all the way around him and got too far ahead of myself," Backes said of Quick.

Quick did make a sharp stop on Backes' one-timer from the left dot on a power play chance, kicking out the right pad with 17:51 left in the second.

"One of those things, you've just got to concentrate, bear down and put it through the back of the net," Backes said. "We had our chances and didn't capitalize. They get a greasy one and it's the difference in the game. Another one-goal, hard-fought battle that we're right there."

The Kings got some sustained pressure around Elliott, and Voynov scored his first of the series and second career playoff goal when he converted a shot from inside the right dot after a mad scrum in front of Brian Elliott, who stopped 20 shots.

The Kings threw a puck into the crease, and Elliott was able to keep a couple away from the net; he tried to cover it up but with multiple bodies in the play, Elliott was never able to cover it up and keep it alive until Voynov snapped it off the left post 4:56 into the second period for a 1-0 Kings lead.

"I had it for a bit and they didn't blow the whistle," Elliott said. "It was just a scramble, have to watch it on tape. It's just one of those plays that it's just a battle at the net and a lot of those are going to happen. Unfortunately we didn't come up with that one.

"(The official) probably didn't see it for a while. I don't know if he knew I had it. ... I didn't really see anybody have it (once it got to Voynov). Just try to make yourself big."

The Blues could have easily had a lead going into the third period but saw Andy McDonald whiff on a rebound in front after Chris Stewart's shot with 12:50 left in the second, and Alexander Steen fired high on an open net after getting a cross-ice feed with 6:47 left in the period.

"No, it's just when I catch it, I go to lift it, as I go to lift, I look up, the puck just gets away from me a little bit," Steen said. "... We knew it was going to be hard. I thought today, we definitely had our chance to win it and didn't take advantage of that. We've got to come back at them in Game 4 here, same determination and just be a little bit more crisper around the net."

Defenseman Jordan Leopold then stepped up to the plate and had his moment to tie the game, but like the rest of his teammates, he came up empty.

Leopold skated in alone on Quick and tried to wire a wrister top corner with 4:44 remaining but missed the net.

"I was trying to pick a corner," Leopold said. "I don't know if I missed the net, if it hit (Quick). I lost sight of it when I let go of it. ... It's disappointing we didn't put any on the board. We've got to get back to work here in a couple days.

"We didn't cash in on our opportunities. We definitely had plenty. I know I had one there. It's unfortunate, but we've got to turn the page and get ready for the next game here."

The Blues couldn't punch one home like the Kings did in Game 1 to force overtime. They were left wondering if they allowed one to slip away.

"I thought we really played well from, I guess five minutes gone from the second period all the way to the end," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought we played well. You're going to get that in the playoffs. We've just got to come back, find a way to out-work the goalie. I thought we did a lot of good things, we created a lot of turnovers, but we didn't sustain the pressure. I think we got a lot of really good original shots. I'm not sure we got as many second and third shots as we're going to need to out-work this guy.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Chris Stewart (right) goes to backhand a shot against Kings
goalie Jonathan Quick Saturday night at Staples Center.
"I thought we were ... more than anything today unlucky. We had a lot of chances, bang bang plays that went through them and went out the other side. I thought today... there's sometimes where the goalie out-works you and ge out-battles you. Today I thought we were unlucky. We could have really scored a lot of goals, especially in the second period."

And the message to the team after wards?

"Get some rest, let's go back at them. We knew what we're in for. I'm sure they felt like they deserved Game 2, and we thought we deserved Game 3. So the series is at where it's at. It's probably accurate where it's at right now.

"It is a helluva battle, and it won't be any different on Monday. There's not much difference between the two teams, both goalies are on top of their games. Our guy was great again tonight, their guy was a little bit better. For us, we have to find a way to take advantage, especially on the road. We're not going to get very many games like this where you'requality chances on the road. We're going to have to find a way to finish some of these off."

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