The Los Angeles Kings were just minutes away from facing a possible elimination game in St. Louis on Wednesday, down 4-3 entering the third period of Game 4 against the Blues. But Anze Kopitar swooped in to save the day, ending a career-long 19-game scoring drought with a game-tying goal midway through the final frame.
Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner also scored for Los Angeles, who battled back from a two-goal deficit in the first period, and again from one goal down in the third. The Kings have now won nine consecutive games at Staples Center dating back to March 23.
St. Louis got off to a quick start, scoring twice in the first four minutes and 32 seconds of the game. They took a 1-0 lead just 1:12 into the contest after Jay Bouwmeester’s shot bounced off the back boards and onto David Backes’ stick in front of the crease. The Blues’ captain threw the puck into the empty right side of the net with goaltender Jonathan Quick out of position from the initial shot.
T.J. Oshie put St. Louis ahead 2-0 when he tipped home a power-play shot from Kevin Shattenkirk at 4:32. The power-play goal was the Blues’ second of the series, and ended an 0 for 12 slump going back to Game 1.
A two-goal lead seemed insurmountable given the low-scoring nature of this series, but the Kings managed to erase that deficit with back to back goals of their own before the first period came to an end. Carter scored his first of the series at 9:33, finishing off a feed from Mike Richards on a 2 on 1 break during 4 on 4 play.
Dustin Penner followed with his first goal since March 19, tying the score 2-2 at 14:30 of the first period. The big winger completed a set of tic-tac-toe passes from Jarret Stoll and Alec Martinez on a 3 on 1 break, ending a 14-game goal-scoring drought of his own.
The Kings got themselves into trouble again when Oshie’s second goal of the game put them in a late hole. The 26-year-old forward went top shelf with a rebound at 5:46 of the second period to give the Blues a 3-2 lead, leaving Los Angeles just over 30 minutes away from a 3-1 series deficit.
Once again, the Kings responded with an offensive outburst, scoring twice in a one minute and 16 second span of the final period to take their first lead of the night. Kopitar tied it at 7:14, putting a shot past Elliott off a perfect feed through traffic from Dustin Brown. While the sold-out crowd was still celebrating the tying goal, Williams deflected a Mike Richards shot into the back of the net for the game winner at 8:30.
The goaltending had been the story in Games 1-3, but Game 4 served as a reminder that they are human. Neither goalie had a particularly good game, but Quick snuck out with the win behind his team’s clutch offensive performance. He made 19 saves, but allowed more than two goals in a game for the first time in this series.
Brian Elliott sopped just 25 of 29 shots for the Blues, who lost for the second consecutive time after winning five in a row dating back to the regular season.
After combining for just seven total goals in Games 1-3, the Kings and Blues combined to match that number in Game 4.
For Los Angeles, their stars finally appeared in the series. The defending champs had mustered up a total of three goals through the first three games, with their top two offensive players accounting for only a single assist. Carter, the team’s leading goal-scorer during the regular season (26 goals-4th in NHL) had failed to record a point until Monday night, while Kopitar, the team leader in points (10 goals, 32 assists= 42 points) had totaled just four shots and one assist through three postseason games.
Game 5 will be in St. Louis on Wednesday, at 6 PM PST (TV: Fox Sports West, CNBC, CBC, Fox Sports Midwest).
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