ST. LOUIS — The stage was set. You couldn't ask for a better opportunity for a sequel. The Kings were down by four goals going into the third period Thursday night, a reversal of fortune at hand for any hockey romantic.
And then Scott Young spoiled things. And Michal Handzus. And Pierre Turgeon.
Cutting to the chase, there was no romance, no reversal, no fortune for the Kings in a 7-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues before an announced 18,906 at the Savvis Center.
"We were very, very poor," King Coach Andy Murray said. "It's the poorest game we've had to date this season."
Craig Conroy and Pavol Demitra scored in the first period, Jochen Hecht and Mike Eastwood in the second for the Blues, setting up a chance to see the Kings equal the St. Louis comeback to the 4-4 tie of eight days ago in Staples Center.
In that game, the Kings blew a 4-0 lead in the third period.
"We talked about that," said Nelson Emerson of what was a production meeting between periods. But when the Kings went back on the ice, the plot sickened.
There was no production, save for Steve Reinprecht's consolation-prize goal.
"They showed us what we had to do in L.A.," Emerson said. "They put the pedal to the metal."
That the Blues did, starting with Young's power-play goal at 6:11.
"We talked about it, but you have to do it," said Ziggy Palffy, who sat out much of the third period, in part because of a cut on his wrist from an unpenalized slash, in part because "for sure, it was my worst game of the year."
It was the Blues' best.
After the second period, "we said to keep playing hard. Don't let up," said St. Louis captain Chris Pronger. "We hadn't played a full 60 minutes all year."
When they did Thursday night, the effect was scary.
So was King goalie Steve Passmore, who had given up a single goal in two starts but was torched Thursday night.
"There's a couple of goals I'd like to have back," he said in his only understatement of the night.
He might have to send back to Southern California for sticks to play in Saturday's game at Dallas, a scenario to which Murray was not ready to commit.
Passmore broke goalie paddles after the first period, yelling in the hallway outside the King locker room.
He broke more after the second, still yelling.
And he broke one on the ice in the third during a timeout.
"Tension relievers," he said of the wooden carnage. "There's a lot of tension around a game like that."
Actually, the tension should have been relieved early. Murray sensed it wasn't the Kings' night "at about 7 o'clock," he said.
That's when the puck was dropped.
From there, the Blues dominated, outshooting the Kings, 10-3, in the first period, and the three King shots didn't make St. Louis goalie Roman Turek break a sweat.
At the other end of the ice, Passmore was scrambling.
"I don't know what happened," he said. " . . . The key is how we respond Saturday night. We've got to come out with a better effort by everybody from the goaltender on out."
The pace was set by Conroy, who opened the scoring with a short-handed goal, set up when Al MacInnis intercepted a pass from Luc Robitaille toward Palffy. MacInnis sent the puck to Conroy, who put it away from the right wing.
After that, the deluge.
By night's end, injury had been added to insult, with Craig Johnson limping because of a welt on his instep, suffered when he was hit by a shot from teammate Jaroslav Modry. Jason Blake suffered a hip pointer. Palffy's hand was wrapped in ice.
"That's always the way it goes in games like this, isn't it?" said Murray, who promised a remedial effort in practice today in Dallas.
Until then, "I don't think I'll get a lot of sleep," Passmore said.
Other Kings talked of looking in mirrors. The view, they said, will be lousy.