ST. LOUIS – Jonathan Quick got the Los Angeles Kings to overtime. Then last year’s Stanley Cup MVP gave it away.
Alex Steen stole the puck from the unsuspecting goalie behind the net and scored a short-handed goal to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 victory over the defending Cup champions on Tuesday.
“It’s exactly what it looked like,” Quick said. “I tried to make a play, he blocked it and scored.”
Win, lose or embarrassed, Quick said he moves on.
“If we had won, I put it right away. If we lost like we did, I put it right away,” Quick said. “It doesn’t make a difference. We’ll try to win Game 2.”
Steen scored unassisted on a backhander at 13:26 of overtime less than a minute after Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk was whistled for a double-minor high sticking when he cut Dustin Penner.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was wondering how in the world his team would deny the Kings that long this late in the game when Quick appeared to dawdle a bit handling the puck and Steen swooped in, intercepting a clearing effort and quickly sliding it home.
“I had fresh legs and I figured I’d try him,” Steen said. “I just got fortunate behind the net.”
Steen also scored on a power play in the first period for the Blues, who ended an eight-game losing streak against the team that swept them in the second round last spring. Getting to the goalie who won the Conn Smythe Trophy with a 1.41 goals-against average and .946 save percentage made it all the sweeter.
“It’s just such an emotional swing,” Hitchcock said. “You’re down, figuring out how to kill a four-minute power play, and then the game’s over.
“You hate to say things are must wins, but hopefully we’re going to gain a lot of confidence.”
The Kings were 4-0 in overtime during last season’s run to the Cup.
“What are you going to do, sit back and feel sorry for yourself and then cost yourself two games?” defenceman Rob Scuderi said. “You can try to learn from your mistakes, dust yourself off and try to win a game on Thursday. I’m hoping we’re going to pick the latter.”
Quick made 35 saves in regulation, keeping the Kings in it for Justin Williams’ tying goal with 31.6 seconds left.
Before Steen’s shocker, the Kings had been on a roll, outshooting the Blues 7-0 after coach Darryl Sutter called a timeout.
The Kings outscored the Blues 15-6 in the playoffs last season and 14-7 in three regular-season meetings. But they were thoroughly outplayed most of the way in Game 1, rescued time and time again by Quick including a few saves early on that he wasn’t sure he’d made judging by the backward glances.
Williams’ 16th career playoff goal tied it at 1, not long after Quick was pulled for an extra attacker. Brian Elliot, who had three shutouts during the Blues’ 12-3 surge to finish the regular season, didn’t hug the post and missed with the glove on Williams’ innocent-appearing shot from the right face-off circle.
The Blues also got the first goal in the 2012 series opener when David Backes scored midway through the first period. The Kings tied it less than eight minutes later and never trailed the rest of the way against the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Steen’s second career playoff goal made the Kings pay for a too many men on the ice call. Shattenkirk made the play, retrieving the puck near the blue line and firing a slap shot that resulted in a big rebound and the lead at 9:05.
The Blues were 0 for 17 on the power play in last year’s series and 2 for 11 this season.
The Kings had a handful of chances to tie it on the power play in the waning seconds of the first. Elliott made two sprawling saves and got his glove on a backhander by Jeff Carter that hit the right goal post near the buzzer.
During the Kings’ second-round sweep of St. Louis last spring, Elliott allowed 13 goals on 89 shots for an .854 save percentage. Hitchcock revealed before this series that Elliott had been battling an inner-ear infection since the end of the Blues’ first-round series win over the Sharks.
Notes: Kings D Robyn Regehr went straight to the dressing room after getting his face bloodied by a skate in the opening minute of the third but only missed a few shifts. The game was delayed for a few minutes while workers dealt with a pool of blood behind the Kings net. … Blues forward T.J. Oshie returned from a 15-game absence following ankle surgery and bumped slumping rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, who had three assists in the last 15 games, from the lineup. … Blues D Jay Bouwmeester was the second-most experienced player in NHL history to make his playoff debut according to STATS LLC, getting to the post-season after 764 regular-season games. Only Olli Jokinen (799) waited longer.