LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Dustin Penner could have simply dumped the puck and allowed the clock to run out on the second period of yet another dead-even game.
Instead, he ripped a long slap shot at the net, and it ramped off a St. Louis stick and flew past Brian Elliott right before the buzzer sounded.
"You might as well try," Penner said with a shrug. "You never know if you don't throw it on net."
That's the type of positive thinking that made the Los Angeles Kings into champions, and that's why they finally got rid of the Blues after a bruising first round of their title defence.
Penner scored the tiebreaking goal in the final second of the second period, and the Kings advanced with their fourth straight victory over the Blues, 2-1 in Game 6 on Friday night.
Jonathan Quick made 21 saves and Drew Doughty scored his first goal of the post-season for the reigning Stanley Cup winners, who won four straight to finish off fourth-seeded St. Louis.
The Blues seemed poised to head into the final minutes with ample momentum after Chris Stewart's tying goal early in a period dominated by St. Louis. Instead, Penner heeded his teammates' instructions to shoot from just inside the blue line—and his rocket of a shot glanced off St. Louis defenceman Roman Polak's stick blade and beat Elliott for his second goal of the playoffs.
"I was trying to look at the clock, to see if it counted," Kings centre Mike Richards said. "It all happened pretty quick. That's a great feeling."
The clock ran out while Penner's slap shot rattled around in Elliott's net, but video replay confirmed the puck entered the net in plenty of time. The goal—officially with 0.2 seconds left—entered Kings lore alongside Penner's winning overtime score to end last season's Western Conference finals in Phoenix.
"When the game means a lot more, it's definitely a lot more fun to play," said Penner, who spent part of the season in coach Darryl Sutter's doghouse as a healthy scratch. "These types of games bring out the best in this team."
Indeed, the Kings held up well under enormous pressure from the hungry Blues: Every game in this bitter, physical series was decided by one goal, and Quick allowed just 10 goals in the six-game series. The Blues won the first two at home, but the Kings responded with four straight gritty victories, winning a playoff series after trailing 0-2 for just the second time in franchise history.
Elliott stopped 14 shots for the Blues, who were eliminated by Los Angeles for the second straight season, this time despite taking a 2-0 series lead. St. Louis physically beat up the Kings, who responded with hard-nosed play of their own, but Quick outplayed Elliott by a minor margin.
"What I'm going to tell them is it's not good enough," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If you want to be a champion, it's not good enough. You can't allow the goalie to outwork you. If you want to be a champion, you're going to have to find a way. ... We took everything to the beach, but we didn't finish putting it in the water."
Los Angeles has won 10 straight games at Staples Center since March, and its sellout crowd waved white towels and roared as the Kings became the first Stanley Cup champion in three years to advance to the second round.
The defending champs won't know who they'll face next until Anaheim and Detroit finish their series Sunday night. If the second-seeded Ducks win, Southern California's two NHL teams will meet in the playoffs for the first time.
The Blues seriously tested the Kings, whose title defence already has been tougher than last season's championship run in one respect. That eighth-seeded club roared to a 3-0 series lead in all four matchups and beat the Western Conference's top three seeds during a 16-4 rampage through the post-season.
The difference yet again was Quick, who showed off his Conn Smythe Trophy form while stopping every shot in the third period. He stopped 167 of 177 shots in the series (.944 save percentage).
"We hit a few posts, and left a couple sitting right there in the crease," Blues captain David Backes said. "It's beginning to be a broken record. We didn't get the job done. We were up 2-0, and to lose four straight, it's pretty sour right now."
The Kings went ahead with 7 1/2 minutes left in the first period of Game 6 when Colin Fraser made a drop pass to Doughty. He froze Polak with a faked slap shot before firing a nasty wrist shot past Elliott.
Doughty, another playoff standout last year, hadn't scored a goal in the series despite logging more than 29 1/2 minutes per game. Doughty plays nearly seven more minutes per game than any other Los Angeles player.
St. Louis responded with appropriate desperation, pressing the Kings and barely missing a goal when Chris Stewart ripped a shot off Quick's post late in the first period. The Blues equalized early in the third when Polak's long slap shot deflected off Porter's body and sneaked inside Quick's far post. Porter, who turns 29 later this month, made his NHL playoff debut in Game 1.
The Kings played solid defence in the third until midway through the period, when Patrik Berglund jumped on a turnover and skated in alone for two chances. Quick stopped the first, and the second sailed above the crease.
St. Louis wasn't whistled for a penalty in Game 6 until 9:32 remained. The Blues pressed the attack in the final minutes, but Quick had little serious trouble.
"There wasn't much ebb and flow to the series," Sutter said. "It was so close. It was always one goal. It was always a shift-to-shift competition the whole way."
NOTES: NHL champions Chicago and Boston both lost in the first round of their title defences over the previous two seasons. The NHL hasn't had a repeat champion since 1998. ... Los Angeles beat Detroit in a first-round series after trailing 0-2 in 2001. The Kings and Blues have split their four playoff matchups in the franchises' history. ... The Kings recalled RW Anthony Stewart from Manchester of the AHL, adding him to 10 prospects recalled Thursday. He is Chris Stewart's older brother.