ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues may be limping, they may be in a bit of a slump, but they are still alive enough to fight back after a beating.
The Blues were defeated by the Kings here Friday night, when St. Louis grew ever more fatigued as it put out three lines to the Kings' four and four defensemen to the Kings' six.
Saturday night came, and St. Louis had the same injury-ridden roster, the same losing streak but a markedly different attitude. The Blues wanted to win so badly that they yanked the victory from under the Kings and fought to a 4-4 tie in overtime before 12,847 fans at the Arena.
The game had the intensity of the playoffs, with much less at stake. The Blues (16-20-8) were in search of an honest effort to boost them after losing five key players to injuries so far this season.
The Kings (20-21-5) were again ever so close to reaching .500. In addition, the team wanted to rid itself of its ineffectiveness when playing in consecutive games this season.
"I was concerned about our back-to-back games," said Mike Murphy, who has replaced the Kings' expelled coach, Pat Quinn, behind the bench. "We've had a great deal of difficulty with them. I'm happy that our team played with a great deal of character again. We think a tie is very acceptable."
Considering the options, a tie wasn't bad. The Kings come out of this two-game trip with three points and hold fast to fourth place in the Smythe Division.
Friday night, the Kings came back to win, 5-3, after being down, 3-1. But Saturday night, St. Louis did not tire and seemed in fact to get better as the game wore on.
The third period and the five-minute overtime were as fast and furious as any the Kings have played this season.
"Both teams battled all night, both teams wanted it," said King goaltender Rollie Melanson, who had 30 saves, compared to the combined 32 by the Blues' Rick Wamsley and Greg Millen. Millen played the third period and overtime.
Often in games on consecutive nights, the sentiments of the first game spill over to the second. That was the case here as the animosity that was just under the surface Friday night flared again. There were 62 penalty minutes in the game.
Doug Gilmour of St. Louis scored two goals, the first at 9:00 of the first period. The Kings answered with rookie Steve Duchesne's brilliant goal at 17:31 off a pass from Bryan Erickson.
Duchesne took a shot from the left wing, at a difficult angle, and appeared to find just the right opening on Wamsley's stick side. Duchesne said, however, that he missed the shot he wanted. He was aiming for the glove side.
Ron Flockhart gave St. Louis the lead again, at 18:00, after stealing a drop pass from Marcel Dionne that was meant for Luc Robitaille. Robitaille scored 23 seconds later, however, and the period ended, 2-2.
Duchesne scored in the second period at 1:06 to give the Kings the lead for the first time. But Cliff Ronning threaded the King defense to tie it at 9:20.
An outbreak of scuffles and fights prolonged the period, which seemed to be winding down to a 3-3 tie. Then Grant Ledyard got the puck off the draw and flicked a wrist shot softly into the corner of the Blues' net with eight seconds left in the period.
The third period dawned hot and fast. Gilmour scored again to tie it at 7:14, and both teams then had a series of excellent scoring chances. The Kings' Bernie Nicholls had a good chance on the rebound of a Ledyard slap shot, but Millen made an excellent save.
It was another in a series of chances that Nicholls has had lately.
"It (the puck) came right out to me," he said. "I gave him a good deke, and he made a heck of a save. He was challenging. I gave him a good move. Give him credit for a great save."
Melanson made the big save for the Kings in overtime. St. Louis wing Mark Hunter came rushing at Melanson and fired a shot at point-blank range. Melanson's save salvaged the tie.
What was Murphy thinking while watching the dangerous Hunter charge his goaltender?
"I was hoping the clock would fall on him," Murphy said, laughing. "I was hoping for the big save from Rollie, and we got it."
The Blues' Ron Flockhart, their fifth-leading scorer, was added to the team's long injury list Saturday night. Flockhart hurt his right knee after a hard check by Grant Ledyard. He left the game and was taken to a hospital. The results of X-rays were not known. . . . Rollie Melanson has been on a scoring streak lately. The goaltender has three assists in the last five games. . . . The King goaltenders have a combined goals-against average of 4.10, which is 20th in the league. Melanson leads the team at 3.17.