ST. LOUIS – It appeared to be a simple play.
It was also the one that Ryan Johnson and Jamal Mayers work on all the time that produced the winning goal for the Blues and helped St. Louis break out of a six-game losing streak.
Mayers received an outlet pass from defenceman Jay McKee at centre ice, tipped the puck to Johnson, who was able to race in along the right side and score the only goal of the third period as the Blues rallied to beat the Kings 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Johnson’s fifth goal of the season came as a result of breaking in with a head of speed, curling the puck around a sliding Anze Kopitar before beating Kings goalie Erik Ersberg with 6:54 remaining to help the Blues snap out of a 0-5-1 skid. They had just scored four goals in those six games.
“It was a great play by Jay and Jamal,” Johnson said. “It’s something we certainly work on in practice. Once I knew I was in with a ton of speed, I was almost just trying to slow myself down. Sometimes you get going so fast, it’s tough to make a play on net. I just tried to look up, take a step and make a play to the net.”
Johnson was able to slide the puck between Ersberg’s pads before tumbling over the Kings netminder and crashing to the ice.
“Essentially, we’re just trying to get the puck deep,” Mayers said. “The reality is RJ’s got such great speed that he was able to turn it into a great scoring chance. With no red line, we tried to spread them out. Teams do a good job of trying to clog up the neutral zone. Really, the only play is somehow to get it behind them.”
The Blues also got goals from Andy McDonald and Keith Tkachuk. Manny Legace kicked out 30 shots for the victory, while handing the Kings their fifth straight loss and seventh in eight games.
“It was very spirited. You knew it was going to be a tight game,” Kings coach Marc Crawford said. “And it was a very tight game. But they got the breaks from the officials tonight on the calls, and that ended up being the difference in the game. We had that power play right at the very end of the game. I thought that our guys battled hard tonight, and they had six good chances in the third period. Unfortunately, we couldn’t solve their goalie in the third period.”
The Kings got goals from Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown. They had a chance to tie it late with a 6-on-3 man advantage after pulling the goalie for a sixth-attacker, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Their best chance came on a slap shot from Michael Cammalleri from the top of the right circle that Legace was able to kick out.
“I saw it the whole way,” Legace said. “I didn’t see the second (shot) where it went over the net. I thank the good guy upstairs because I didn’t see that one. I was just going down praying that it would hit me in the head or something.”
McDonald quickly gave the Blues a 1-0 lead when he banged home a centring feed from Paul Kariya just 1:40 into the game, McDonald’s 13th of the season.
The Blues has a terrific chance to grab a two-goal lead, but the 5-on-3 man advantage they had for 1:35 produced no goals even though they had four great chances.
“We had three or four great looks on the 5-on-3,” Blues coach Andy Murray said. “It just wouldn’t go in for us.”
The Kings would tie it before the end of the first period as Frolov collected a loose puck in the slot and fired it past Legace with 47.4 seconds to play in the period for his 20th of the season and fifth goal in three games against St. Louis this season.
Brown gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead 4:02 into the second period, snapping a shot from the left circle that squirted past Legace at the near post.
Tkachuk answered for the Blues in the second period with his 21st of the season and 494th of his career when he converted a 2-on-1 break at 11:53 of the period.
Ersberg, who was making his third start of the season as the Kings have been ravaged by injuries to their goalies, tried to poke the puck off Johnson’s stick as he was coming in.
“Somehow, it bounced in and I really don’t know where it went in,” Ersberg said.
The Blues were able to defend the remaining time, including the last few minutes where they were penalized for the first times in the contest.
“We limit a team to two goals and we’ve done that in 11 of the last 13 games,” Murray said. “It’s amazing that our win totals have not been better than that, but tonight, we managed to score three goals.” Notes: A heavy snowstorm kept many of the announced crowd of 14,973 away from Scottrade Center. There were roughly half as many fans in attendance. The St. Louis metropolitan area got anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of snow throughout the day Tuesday. … The Blues will hit the road for a nine-game road trip that begins Wednesday in Detroit. The trip will also take them to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose, Anaheim, Montreal, Ottawa and Chicago.