Down but certainly not out, the Kings tore up their playbook and tried something new and different for Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues on Monday night at Staples Center. They morphed into an offensive powerhouse overnight.
The Kings rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Blues 4-3, tying the best-of-7 series at two victories apiece. The punchless Kings scored only one goal in each of the first three games of the hard-hitting series, but then erupted for four in Game 4.
The teams return to St. Louis for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Game 6, which is now necessary, will be Friday at Staples Center.
Anze Kopitar scored his first goal since March 25 against the Chicago Blackhawks to tie the score at 3-all. He slipped behind the Blues’ defense on the left wing and accepted a pass from the right from Dustin Brown and slammed the puck into the back of the net at 7:14 of the third period.
Then with the crowd still buzzing about Kopitar’s tying goal, Justin Williams put the Kings ahead 4-3 by deflecting a perimeter shot by Mike Richards at 8:30. The goal was reviewed to see if Williams stuck the puck while his stick was above his shoulder.
Staples Center went bonkers when it was ruled to be a good goal.
The ending was a radical departure from the beginning.
The Blues scored on their first shot of the game and then again on their third, taking the first two-goal lead in the series. David Backes chipped a rebound into the back of the net 1:12 into the game and T.J. Oshie made it 2-0 with a deflection of a point shot at 4:32.
Staples Center went silent.
Kings fans knew what a two-goal deficit would mean for their team. The Kings would need to score at least three times in order to win, a daunting feat considering they scored only once in each of the first three games of the tight-checking, low-scoring series.
What’s more, the Kings hadn’t rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a playoff game since they came back from 3-0 down in the third period to the Detroit Red Wings on April 18, 2001. They needed overtime to win 4-3 in the so-called “Frenzy on Figueroa.”
Instead of cracking Monday, the Kings rallied with a pair of uncharacteristic goals in a series that’s been so defensive that coach Darryl Sutter got defensive about the nature of the play during his session with reporters Sunday at the team’s El Segundo practice facility
First, Jeff Carter capped a two-on-one rush with Richards for his first goal of the playoffs, a nifty move in front of Blues goaltender Brian Elliott that made it 2-1 at 9:33 of the opening period. Carter scored a team-leading 26 goals during the regular season.
Then, Dustin Penner swept home a centering pass from Jarret Stoll on a 3-on-1 rush to tie the score at 2-2 at 14:30. Stoll fed the puck to Alec Martinez while entering the attacking zone, received a return pass and then slipped the puck from the right wing to Penner near the left goal post.
The Kings scored twice on six shots in the first period; the Blues put two in on 11 shots.
Order was restored to start the second period.
Or so it seemed.
Oshie scored his second of the game to give the Blues a 3-2 lead at 5:46, after Patrik Berglund skated untouched through the Kings defense. Oshie also was unmarked as he swept in a rebound from near the right goal post for his second career playoff goal in his 17th game.
The Kings outshot the Blues 19-17 through two periods, controlling play for a good portion of the second half of the second period. But the Kings couldn’t produce the tying goal and went to the third period trailing the Blues 3-2.
Sutter dressed seven defensemen for the second consecutive game, adding Martinez to the six who were in the lineup for the first two games in St. Louis. In a defensive battle, Sutter said he wanted more defense in his lineup. So, the Kings went with seven defensemen again.