ST. LOUIS – The Los Angeles Kings dialed it back to their Stanley Cup run last spring, and put another beating on the St. Louis Blues.
Jeff Carter scored twice for the first time since the Game 6 Cup clincher over New Jersey and the Kings didn’t need playoff star Jonathan Quick in goal to shut down St. Louis in a 4-1 victory on Monday night.
“That’s something we’ve been talking about, getting a lead and playing with a lead,” Carter said. “We haven’t been doing that much this year.
“It’s not easy coming in here and playing these guys. It’s a step in the right direction.
Brian Elliott has been in net the last four games of the Blues’ five-game losing streak, a skid in which they’ve allowed 26 goals. Elliott made 19 saves in a surprise start a day after Jaroslav Halak was activated from injured reserve, led the team onto the ice for the pregame skate and was listed on the game sheet.
(There’s) “no going into the pregame skate knowing what you’re going to be facing, so it’s a little tough,” Elliott said. “But like I’ve said, when you just get thrown into the fire sometimes it’s better. You’re not thinking about it, you just go in and play.”
Halak tweaked a groin strain and Elliott found out he was starting about five minutes before the opening faceoff.
“I think everybody was in a little bit of shock,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He had three really good days of practice and then, I don’t know, somewhere in the warm-up he pulled it again.”
Hitchcock said he’d know the extent of the injury in practice Tuesday.
Backup goalie Jonathan Bernier was solid with 21 saves in just his second game of the season and first start for the Kings. Los Angeles outscored the Blues 15-6 while eliminating them in five games in the second round of the playoffs last spring en route to the Stanley Cup finals.
“I’ve been trying to keep my game at a high level,” Bernier said. “Just trying to stay focused, that’s how it’s been all year.”
Carter said Bernier “has been itching to get in there.”
“He made the saves when he had to and didn’t give up any rebounds,” Carter added. “He saw all the pucks, he did a great job.”
Davis Drewiske made it 3-0 at 13:22 of the second period with his first goal of the season on a power play. Alex Steen scored on a power play in the final minute of the second for St. Louis with Andy McDonald earning his 300th career assist.
The Kings are just 4-5-2 and had lost three of four before beating the Blues.
“The top guys need to put some goals in the net, and it’s no secret that we’ve kind of struggled at that,” Carter said. “For us to win games, we’re going to have to get going here.”
The five-game skid is the first since Jan. 2-12, 2011, for the Blues, who began the season 6-1. It’s their first five-game losing streak at home since Jan. 23-Feb. 6, 2010.
“This is the homestand from hell,” Hitchcock said. “We lost our goalie, we didn’t play as well and now we’ve got to take this onto the road, and we’ve got to be much more accountable to each other.”
Carter tapped in a backhander on a break-in with Slava Voynov at 8:31 of the first, just the Kings’ fifth first-period goal of the season, then got behind defenceman Ian Cole for his sixth of the season early in the second. Drewiske was wide open in the slot off a feed from Dustin Brown.
The Kings are 89-1-10 their last 100 games when leading after two periods, and got insurance on Jarrett Stoll’s second goal of the season that made it 4-1 early in the third. Voynov earned his second assist on the play.
Elliott entered the game 3-4-1 with a 3.51 goals-against average and Hitchcock said after a 6-5 shootout loss to the Ducks on Saturday that he’d start rookie Jake Allen against Los Angeles if Halak wasn’t ready to go. Allen was assigned to Peoria, Ill., when Halak, 3-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average and two shutouts, was activated on Sunday.
The Kings entered as the NHL’s lowest-scoring team and matched their season best for goals.
Notes: Carter’s last two-goal game during the regular season was March 3 against the Ducks. … Attendance of 14,498 was the Blues’ lowest of the season, more than 4,000 shy of capacity. … The victory was Bernier’s first since March 17, 2012, over the Predators. … The Blues have scored on the power play in six straight games.