Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Steen's OT winner gives Blues series lead over Kings

Shorthanded tally was second of game in
2-1 win over defending champs in Game 1

The Blues called it poetic justice.

Alexander Steen called it a fortunate play.

Either way they look at it, anything but a victory Tuesday night would have been devastating, even though the playoffs are just beginning.

The Blues felt like they outplayed the defending Stanley Cup champions for nearly 60 minutes, with nearly being the key word.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk (22), Alex Pietrangelo (27) and teammates
jump into the pile to celebrate Alexander Steen's overtime goal in a 2-1
victory over the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night in Game 1.

But after allowing the tying goal with 31.6 seconds to play in regulation, it could have been not only a deflating goal in the game but also the series for the Blues. And after defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was assessed a four-minute double-minor penalty for high-sticking the Kings' Dustin Penner, it gave the Kings a chance to steal a game.

However, Steen's second goal of the game, a shorthanded tally in overtime, gave the Blues a 2-1 victory over the Kings in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday at Scottrade Center.

With Shattenkirk in the box, Steen deflected Kings goalie Jonathan Quick's passing attempt from behind the net and wrapped a backhand effort into the net 13:26 into the overtime period for the Blues' first win against Los Angeles in nine games. They were 0-7-1 dating back to last season.

"I just got on. I figured once the puck went down, I had fresh legs," Steen said. "I figured I'd try [Quick]. I guess I just got fortunate behind the net there. It hit my stick, and it went in."

Shattenkirk was the happiest player on the ice after he rushed out of the penalty box.

"I owe Steener many thanks and maybe a couple dinners," Shattenkirk joked. "I think I might have thrown the guy in the penalty box out of the way to get out on the ice. It was a very big relief.

"It was a play that was a reactionary play. [Penner] manages to kind of get the puck in my feet. I go to lift his stick ... you have to control your stick and it was a tough break. My heart sank a little bit there and a little bit nervous in the box no doubt, but you could tell from the beginning of the penalty kill the guys were ready to kill it off and help me out. Obviously getting a goal on it is one way to end it and kind of get through it."

Quick, who was stellar with 40 saves in the game, looked to make a play to his right but had his effort picked. In an instant, the game was over.

"It's exactly what it looked like," Quick said. "I tried to make a pass. [Steen] blocked it and scored.

"I don’t have an option to the left and you’re trying to force him to the left. Trying to give my D-man a little more time with the puck. You give it to him early and then he [Steen] is up his ass. You try to make him make a decision. And he got the stick on it."

The Kings, who were 16-4 in the postseason en route to winning their first Stanley Cup, got a stellar effort from Quick, who was the only reason the game didn't get out of hand for the visitors. The Kings gave themselves a chance when Justin Williams got the equalizer with 31.6 seconds remaining in regulation.

"To be able to tie it up, they score on a bad break ... lose it, tough break," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "They came out exactly how you expected them to. They played a warp-speed game, they did. We had a handful of guys that weren't ready for that part of it. It made for a tough time."

It's one game, but the Blues -- at least for one night -- got that monkey that was beginning to look like a gorilla off their backs.

The Blues opened the postseason against the defending Stanley Cup champions with not only a mission, but to prove to themselves that they can beat the Kings.

"The hockey gods took care of us today. They did," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We played a great hockey game. Waking up tomorrow would have been a challenge if we didn't win the hockey game today. You hate to say things are must-win, but for us, we're hopefully going to gain a lot of confidence from this that we can compete with these guys and not just compete but actually win. ... I think it would have been a shame not to win, but when you're the defending champion, you can't just knock them off, you're going to have to stick a pretty big nail in them. We're just getting started in this series."

Brian Elliott continued his winning ways this month with 28 saves as the Blues had dropped three straight overtime playoff games dating back to May 16, 2001 -- Scott Young’s double-overtime winner against the Colorado Avalanche.

It was a dominating first period by the Blues that saw them get the lone goal, but the Kings were on the doorstep in the closing seconds looking for the tie.

Quick made a pad stop on Kevin Shattenkirk's point shot on the power play, but kicked the rebound into the slot, where Steen snapped a one-timer into the top corner 9:05 into the game for a 1-0 lead.

"I knew I had a lot of time walking down the pipe," Shattenkirk said. "I just teed up a slap shot and I knew it was going to be somewhere to the left side of the net. I know with how much time [Quick] had to react and kind of square up to be that he was going to be aggressive like he has been against us all the time. We had a few guys coming out that side of the net and it was Johnny on-the-spot there for Steener."

The Blues' forecheck created all sorts of havoc. And it was the Adam Cracknell-Chris Porter-Ryan Reaves line that helped energize the 17,612 in the building with bruising, bone-crushing hits that helped dictate tempo.

"We try and make good plays at the same time, but if we bring a physical presence and we throw a big hit, our team gets fired up from that," Cracknell said. "That's our job and we know that.

"We watched LA last year and throughout the season. Their fourth line does that, too. We have to match their effort and bring more. We just tried to take a page out of their book and that's what we try to do as a line."

The Blues were unable to extend the 1-0 lead, thanks to Quick.

Quick did make the best save to open the game, stacking the pads when Roman Polak got a saucer feed in alone from Vladimir Sobotka, but was robbed by the Kings' netminder with 12:11 left in the period.

Elliott made the first of two solid stops on Jeff Carter with under five minutes left in the period after a failed clearing attempt by Roman Polak.

The Kings had a late first-period power play and Elliott was up to the challenge again on Carter on the doorstep after Drew Doughty's shot pin-balled around the crease, and Elliott got a left skate on Carter's backhand attempt that kicked off the right post with a few seconds left.

Quick continued to hold the Kings within striking distance through 40 minutes with a pair of point-blank stops on Jaden Schwartz off a Steen feed right at the top of the crease in the second period. Quick also benefited from David Backes ringing one off the right post 7:40 into the period.

Quick again was up to the task, robbing Backes from in tight with 9:15 remaining in the game, then holding his position on Schwartz seconds later to keep the game 1-0.

"He was outstanding," Sutter said of Quick. "I thought he played a great game. Kind of ironic the two best players on the ice were in on the goal."

With Quick pulled for an extra attacker, Williams used a sliding Barret Jackman as a screen and snapped a near-side shot into the near side with 31.6 seconds remaining to tie the game 1-1 after the Blues failed to put the defending champs away.

"They were just throwing bodies at the net and it went off our d-man's stick and went top corner," Elliott said. "Anything can happen. You've got to be prepared for that. Guys just stayed positive and we tried to stick to our game plan. They came out at us in overtime and I think we battled back and Steener putting it away for us was huge."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' Ryan Reaves (left) battles the Kings' Drew Doughty
during Tuesday's playoff game at Scottrade Center.

The key for the Blues was to regroup, and do so quickly, which they did. Allowing the tying goal to linger could have brought on devastating consequences.

"We came in here. We knew it wasn't going to be easy against these guys," Steen said.
"You can't get mad at yourself at that," Elliott said. "You just have to refocus, get back out there and really want to play in that overtime. Guys were excited to do it. A little bit of a roller-coaster ride with that four-minute penalty turned into a game-winner, that's a big one for us. We've got to take that, put it in our back pocket and move onto the next game.

"I thought we deserved to win that one tonight."

The Blues took a 1-0 series lead and will host Game 2 on Thursday in St. Louis before the series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 Saturday and Monday.

"It's a big start," Steen said. "I thought we came out with a lot of jump and played a solid three periods. Unfortunate goal to send it into overtime. I think we did a good job of regrouping in here because both teams kind of sat back a little bit in OT. It's a big win for us. Now we regroup tomorrow and go back at them in Game 2."

* NOTES -- T.J. Oshie replaced Vladimir Tarasenko in the lineup. ... This is the fourth postseason meeting between the two teams, and each of the first three ending in a sweep. The Blues won in 1969 and 1998, the Kings of course swept last season's series 4-0. ... The Kings have started 16 consecutive playoff series on the road, which is an NHL record. ...

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