ST. LOUIS – The way the Los Angeles Kings opened the playoffs is old news. The defending Stanley Cup champions are headed home where they’ve dominated, one win shy of surviving the first round.
Defenceman Slava Voynov scored on an odd-man rush 8 minutes into overtime and the Kings beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on Wednesday night, winning for the third straight time after dropping the first two games.
“Starting the series 0-2 wasn’t the best start,” said Jeff Carter, who scored in the opening minute of the second and third periods. “It wasn’t the start we were looking for, but we worked on things and we talked about things, and I think it’s showing in our game now.”
Game 6 is in Los Angeles on Friday night and the Kings have won nine in a row at home, where they are 21-4-1 overall counting the regular season. They’re also 4-0 at home in the playoffs against the Blues the last two seasons.
“Another one-goal game, but we came out on top,” goalie Jonathan Quick said. “We’ve got another one to win, so we’re going to go home and get our rest and get ready.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, so we’re going to get ready for this next one.”
The Blues failed to capitalize on Alex Pietrangelo’s goal with 44.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Rookie Jaden Schwartz got a piece of Voynov’s stick on the winner, perhaps altering the shot a bit, and smashed his stick several times against the sideboards and glass before leaving the ice.
“I thought we played a pretty solid game for the most part,” Schwartz said. “We battled back hard. It was just an unfortunate bounce in the end.”
With goalie Brian Elliott off for an extra attacker, Pietrangelo’s wrist shot at the end of regulation forced overtime for the second time in the series. It was the third goal in the final minute of the third period in the series.
The Kings’ Justin Williams scored in the final minute of a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1, also in St. Louis. The Blues had a 2-0 series lead after Barret Jackman scored in the final minute of Game 2.
All five games have been decided by one goal, the only first-round series with that distinction.
“The momentum can swing at any moment,” said Jackman, who was on the ice for the winner. “You get an odd-man rush and get a bit of a lucky goal, that happens in overtime.
“That’s why you shoot the puck.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock thought Game 5 was his team’s best overall effort, and was optimistic that with a repeat showing they can get back home and force Game 7 on Monday night.
“If we play like that again, I like our chances,” Hitchcock said. “We got a heck of an effort for everybody across the board.”
The Kings ended the Blues’ eight-game home win streak in which Elliott allowed one goal each time. Elliott was not made available to reporters.
The Kings were the first road team to win in the series.
Voynov scored the only goal in the Kings’ 1-0 Game 3 victory. That had been the defenceman’s lone point of the series before he joined the attack with Williams and Anze Kopitar, with all three players handling the puck before Voynov slid the puck beneath Elliott’s pads.
Alex Steen’s third goal of the series tied it at 1 in the second period for St. Louis. Steen, whose short-handed overtime goal decided Game 1, twice took the puck from defenceman Jake Muzzin on the play.
Pietrangelo got the puck at the point off a clean faceoff win by David Backes and slid into the middle before threading a shot past Quick after two teammates were unsuccessful at deflection attempts.
Carter’s power-play goal capitalized on a tripping penalty to Jackman at the end of the second period. Kopitar got Elliott out of position on an odd-man rush before Carter converted a one-timer to put the Kings up 2-1.
The Blues dominated much of the scoreless opening period, responding from their fadeout while blowing a pair of leads in a 4-3 loss in Game 4. The reunited CPR fourth line of Adam Cracknell, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves had a handful of nice scoring chances in addition to setting the tone physically.
It took the Kings just 14 seconds to take the lead in the second period, though, when Carter tapped a rebound past Elliott. Carter, among the NHL leaders with 26 goals, had no points in the first three games.
The Blues’ No. 1 line was victimized again, with Patrik Berglund and David Perron on the ice for the fifth straight goal by the Kings.
Steen tied it a little over five minutes later. Steen knocked Muzzin’s clearing effort out of the air with his stick and won a battle for the puck behind the net before wheeling around and scoring on a high shot.
NOTES: Cracknell was a healthy scratch in Game 4 in favour of rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, who made his playoff debut and was no factor. … Kings coach Darryl Sutter made one lineup change, too, scratching D Keaton Ellerby in favour of 21-year-old rookie F Tyler Toffoli, who made his playoff debut. D Matt Greene, still getting into condition after missing virtually the entire season, has yet to appear in the series. … Mike Richards assisted on Carter’s second goal and has three assists the last two games.