When the pressure reached its nail-biting peak, when the St. Louis Blues twice took leads over the Kings on Monday and could have seized control of Game 4 of their playoff series — and the series itself — the Kings knew it was time to remain purposeful, not to panic.
"We've been in that position before and I think these guys don't get too down on themselves," forward Jeff Carter said Tuesday. "We stayed calm and we chipped away."
Goals by Carter and Dustin Penner brought the Kings from 2-0 down to even before the end of the first period. And although the Blues vaulted back into the lead on a second-period goal by T.J. Oshie, the Kings responded with third-period goals by Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams to pull out a 4-3 victory and tie the series at 2-2.
Game 5 will be played Wednesday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, scene of 2-1 losses for the Kings in each of the first two games. Despite those defeats — the most recent in an eight-game road losing streak — the Kings believe they're in good shape.
Kopitar broke a 19-game scoring drought Monday and was one of 11 players who had at least one point, led by Mike Richards' two assists. That's impressively balanced production for a team that was playing tight defense but had managed only one goal in each of the first three games.
"I think we've been getting better every game and I think it again showed [Monday]," Carter said before the Kings flew to St. Louis.
"We were skating better, getting on pucks and using our forecheck more to our advantage and it showed in the end result."
The Blues, so cohesive defensively in the first three games, were rattled Monday. Their defensemen made bad choices that resulted in odd-man rushes, and they seemed worn down by the Kings' mental and physical toughness. Their best players weren't their best performers, as Oshie, Patrik Berglund and David Perron each compiled a minus-3 defensive rating.
"I think we gave ourselves a chance in the first period and I thought we gave them a chance right back," Blues goaltender Brian Elliott told reporters in St. Louis on Tuesday. "It's just about controlling what we need to do and not trying to do anything too special. Some of us tried to do too much and didn't trust in each other."
The Kings, however, kept faith in their game plan and elevated their execution.
"They took the game to another level and we didn't have an answer," Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They won a lot of puck battles that we'd be winning before. They dialed it up so there's another level out there and it's our job now to answer the level."
Whatever the Blues come up with in front of their home fans, the Kings believe they're prepared to handle it.
"They're going to come out hard," winger Kyle Clifford said. "We're going to come out even harder."
Game 5 will start at 6 p.m. PDT and will be televised on Fox Sports West. Game 6, to be played Friday at Staples Center, will start at 7 p.m. and will be televised on Prime Ticket. No start time has been announced for a possible Game 7.
The Kings recalled two goaltenders, Martin Jones from Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League and J.F. Berube from Ontario of the ECHL, to serve as practice targets when Jonathan Quick or Jonathan Bernier want a day off the ice. Berube practiced with the Kings on Sunday and Monday.