ST. LOUIS – Oh, too casually, Jonathan Quick fiddled with the puck behind the net. Switching from backhand to forehand, last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs MVP was set to re-load a Los Angeles Kings’ power play that had more than three minutes left to decide overtime.
Those extra seconds of stick-handling ended up giving Quick a jolt of humility.
Alexander Steen swooped in and stole the puck and then quickly tucked in a back-hander for a short-handed goal that gave the St. Louis Blues, seemingly on the ropes, a 2-1 victory in a first-round playoff opener Tuesday night.
“I think I just got fortunate,” said Steen, who also scored on a power play in the first period. “It hit my stick.”
The Kings, who swept the Blues in the second round last spring on the way to the franchise’s first Cup, took a punch to the gut after Justin Williams scored in the final minute of regulation. They’ll try to rebound and even the series Thursday night.
“We have a chance to win the game, everybody was focused on doing that,” centre Anze Kopitar said. “Unfortunately, we gave up what obviously shouldn’t happen, can’t happen.”
Quick made a season-high 40 saves, all but five of them in regulation, to keep the Kings in it. Last spring’s Conn Smythe award winner was looking the part.
Then he handed the Blues the series lead.
“You try to force it and I tried to give my D-men a little more time with the puck,” Quick said. “I tried to make a good decision and he got a stick on it.”
Steen’s third career playoff game was unassisted at 13:26 of overtime and came less than a minute after Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk was whistled for a double-minor high sticking when he cut Dustin Penner.
“It’s just such an emotional swing,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You’re down, figuring out who’s going to kill a four-minute power play, and then the game’s over.”
Then, the Kings’ dominant run over the Blues was over, too. They ended an eight-game losing streak against Los Angeles, which added to its playoff sweep by whipping them 14-7 in taking three regular-season games.
“From our standpoint, we needed to talk about something other than coming close,” Hitchcock said. “You can only go to that well so many times and players stop believing.
“We’ve got experience now to draw on.”
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.
The Kings were 4-0 in overtime during last season’s Cup run. They had been on a roll, outshooting the Blues 7-0 after coach Darryl Sutter called timeout.
“I thought we were starting to come around,” defenceman Rob Scuderi said. “But overall, you’ve got to push it under the rug, as hard as it is sometimes, and try and come back fresh.”
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 F 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, getting to the post-season after 764 regular-season games. Only Olli Jokinen (799) waited longer.