L.A. Kings' Jeff Carter checks St. Louis Blues' David Perron… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Jonathan Quick bravely but needlessly took the blame for the Kings' losses in the first two games of their opening-round playoff series against St. Louis. When he backed up Slava Voynov's second-period goal Saturday with a 30-save performance in a gritty 1-0 victory for the Kings at Staples Center, he refused to take credit for hauling the Kings back into a series in which they were slipping toward postseason oblivion.
“We were never out of it, just won a game,” he said, in typical low-key fashion after his fifth career playoff shutout. “Did what we had to, to win a game. Everybody worked hard.”
They had to be diligent every second against the Blues in another hard-hitting, tense contest. The Kings' penalty killing was tested from start to finish, killing off four disadvantages to help Voynov's goal — scored from the right circle following a jam around Brian Elliott's net —stand up.
BOX SCORE: Kings 1, St. Louis 0
Quick, who has stopped 93 of 97 shots in this series, scrambled and battled and got involved in a battle in the crease with David Perron that led to a double-minor against a protective Drew Doughty.
“Obviously that's inane for him to say any of those losses are on him,” said forward Justin Williams, who played a feisty two-way game and dived full-length to knock a loose puck out of the slot with about five minutes left.
“But that's who you want as a goaltender — a goaltender who's going to battle for you. A guy who wants to stop every puck that comes toward him. That's what he does. In this series we'll need him to be at his best because goals are going to be at a premium.”
The Kings have scored one goal in each game, but Voynov's was the first scored under “normal” circumstances. They tied Game 1 after Quick had been pulled for an extra skater and scored in Game 2 with a five-on-three manpower edge. They lost each of those games, 2-1.
“The first two games were pretty similar to this game except we had more goals than them,” Quick said, matter-of-factly. “Just have to keep working.”
They were buoyed by returning to the familiar confines of Staples Center, where they recorded a league-leading 19 victories this season.
“I think we're focused. We put ourselves in a hole, 2-0, coming back home but we took care of business,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “But it's always about the next game this time of year.”
That will be Monday, when they reconvene at Staples Center for Game 4. They will return to St. Louis for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter made one lineup change by adding defenseman Alec Martinez to the lineup and deploying seven defensemen.
Based on the pairings in the morning skate, it appeared Sutter would take Keaton Ellerby out in order to bring in Martinez, a skillful puck mover. Instead, Sutter scratched winger Jordan Nolan and kept Ellerby in the lineup. Brown and Williams took extra shifts on the fourth line with Kyle Clifford and Colin Fraser.
Sutter had said Friday some players were “banged up” and he might make a change, but he gave no hint about his plan Saturday morning.
The move underscored how fortunate the Kings were last spring to go through their playoff run with the same six defensemen playing every game. They didn't have to deal with injuries to their defense corps or any too-big-to-ignore slumps, and as a result developed consistency and stability.
But as center Jarret Stoll says when asked to compare the Kings' Cup run to this season's playoff journey, this isn't last year. Last year is over, and so is the Kings' good fortune on defense.
So too is their playoff dominance. They took a 3-0 lead in all four series last spring and never faced much adversity. This journey is already very different, tougher than last year's. Scoring one goal a game won't win very often.
They're a long way from knowing whether this journey will turn out to be as successful as last year's, but by winning on Saturday they gave themselves a chance to compare and continue.