After St. Louis ties it in the final minute of regulation, Slava Voynov's overtime goal gives the Kings a 3-2 lead in the series.
ST. LOUIS — Kings Coach Darryl Sutter had no special message for his players after they came achingly close to beating the St. Louis Blues in regulation time Wednesday but yielded a last-minute goal and had to come back onto the ice at Scottrade Center.
He knew that no one needed instructions or a pep talk. "You practiced overtime your whole life. Stanley Cup overtime," Sutter said.
Justin Williams grew up practicing it in Canada, Anze Kopitar in Slovenia and Slava Voynov in Russia, but they made their common dream come alive Wednesday and put the fifth-seeded Kings within a victory of advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
Williams, speeding up the left side, found Kopitar in the middle, and he fed an onrushing Voynov on the right. Voynov finished off the quickly developing three-on-two with a knuckling shot that handcuffed Brian Elliott eight minutes into overtime and gave the Kings a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 series lead, halting an eight-game road losing streak and putting the Kings in position to clinch the series on Friday at Staples Center.
"I think it's very important for us to win on the road because we played so hard the last couple games here in St. Louis," Voynov said after recording his second game-winner of the series and becoming the first Kings defenseman to score a playoff overtime goal since Jaroslav Modry on April 26, 2001, against Colorado.
"It's a little bit easier for us to play in L.A. in front of our fans, so it's very important for us."
If anyone's nerves were frayed in the fifth one-goal game of the series, it didn't show. This was another rollicking, high-tempo, hard-hitting contest, proof that low-scoring games can be as entertaining and dramatic as scoring sprees.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped 34 shots and has stopped 146 of 155 in the series. Drew Doughty played 33 minutes and 37 seconds. Fellow defensemen Rob Scuderi (five blocked shots in 23:44), Voynov (24:21) and Robyn Regehr (25:10 interrupted by repairs to his bloodied face after he was hit by a shot) were unflappable when the Kings needed them to be poised.
"It's nice to be on the good side of the one-goal games. It's a lot more enjoyable," said Kopitar, who said he knew Voynov was on his right as they dashed up ice in overtime.
"Playoffs are tight. Every single play on the ice counts. We were pretty close to finishing it off in regulation and we didn't do it, but I thought it was a great job from the guys to regroup and come back strong in OT."
They went to overtime after Alex Pietrangelo's shot from the right point, set up when David Backes beat Jarret Stoll on a faceoff, sailed through a forest of bodies and eluded Quick with 44.1 seconds left in the third. The Blues had pulled Elliott in favor of an extra skater.
"I stepped off the angle to find it. I saw him release it," Quick said. "As it was coming I just couldn't find it, after it came off his stick. Usually when you see it come off his stick it gives you a better chance of stopping it.
"I couldn't seem to pick it up. It was disappointing at the time, but we were able to bounce back and get one there in overtime, which was huge."
Jeff Carter scored the Kings' first two goals. He gave them a 1-0 lead 14 seconds into the second period by converting the rebound of a shot by Doughty, but the Blues matched that at 6:46, after two giveaways by a flustered Jake Muzzin allowed Alex Steen to capture the puck twice and lift a shot over Quick's right shoulder.
Carter scored during a power play 54 seconds into the third period off a pass from Kopitar, and the Kings nursed that lead until Pietrangelo struck.
"It was our best effort of the year. We played a hell of a hockey game," Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "And if we play like that again, I like our chances."
The Kings' chances seem better at home, with a nine-game winning streak there. Game 7 would be Monday in St. Louis.
"We're comfortable at home," Carter said. "We've been playing some good hockey there. To get back in front of our fans is a huge boost for us. We'll go back and try to win a game."
Not just a game — another step toward defending their title.