There was no room to roam on the ice.
No margin for error either.
The Kings scored what proved to be the winning goal with only 0.2 seconds remaining in the second period, which says all you really need to know about the closeness of their 2-1 victory Friday over the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 and their bruising 4-2 series win.
“There wasn’t much ebb and flow in this series, quite honestly,” coach Darryl Sutter said after the Kings rallied to win after losing the first two games in St. Louis. “It was so close, always a one-goal lead other than a two-goal lead here briefly (in Game 4). It was a shift-to-shift competition all the way. I’m sure it was a hard series for the players to play.”
Dustin Penner scored the go-ahead goal in the dying moments of the second, whistling a shot that appeared to deflect off the stick of retreating St. Louis defenseman Roman Polak at 19:59. Goaltender Jonathan Quick made 21 saves, bailing out the Kings with several key stops.
Penner, a left wing, scored his fifth playoff goal with the Kings, with three as game-deciders.
Quick stopped 167 of 177 shots for a .944 save percentage in the series.
The defending Stanley Cup champions Kings now get a day to rest and recover while awaiting their second-round playoff opponent. It could be the Ducks if they defeat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of their first-round series Sunday at the Honda Center.
If the Red Wings win, the Kings will face the San Jose Sharks and have home-ice advantage.
The Ducks squandered a chance to close out the Red Wings, falling 4-3 in overtime Friday.
The Kings took care of business, though, eliminating the Blues at the first opportunity. Defenseman Drew Doughty put the Kings ahead 1-0 at 12:37 of the first period. Left wing Chris Porter was credited with the Blues’ only goal at 4:39 of the second.
Penner put the Kings ahead to stay in the final second of the middle period.
“I heard the bench yell, ‘Shoot,’” Penner said. “Might as well try, you never know what happens.”
The Kings were outshot 8-3 in the third, but Quick turned away the Blues again and again.
“I’ve got all the respect in the world for that team,” Quick said of the Blues. “They work hard. Somebody’s got to move on. Six one-goal games, so it was about as close as you can get. It could have gone either way. We’re fortunate to be moving on.”
Quick’s puck-handling gaffe in overtime in Game 1, which led to the winning goal by Alex Steen, was ancient history by the time the buzzer sounded on the Kings’ victory in Game 6. He was sharp from the opening minutes, but especially in the closing moments.
St. Louis pressured the Kings for the tying goal, but couldn’t squeeze one past Quick, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the 2012 playoffs. For the Blues, it was a frustrating finish after a promising beginning.
“We hit a few posts and a couple sitting right there in the crease,” Blues captain David Backes said. “It’s beginning to be a broken record. We didn’t get the job done. It’s about winning four games to win the series. We were up 2-0 and to lose four straight, it’s pretty sour right now.”
Among the Kings, there was a sense of satisfaction in outlasting the Blues in a grinding series that was short on goals but long on hits. There also was a feeling of relief since none of the remaining teams in the Western Conference play with the same sort of physicality as the Blues.
“I think we can get better, and that was our goal, from Day 1 in the series,” Kings forward Mike Richards said. “We’ve got some work to do and some time to get over some bumps and bruises and get some practice in (before the next round next week).”