The Four Seconds In the Kings Series Win Against the Blues
It was four seconds that ended the series.
After the Blues tried to clear the puck out of their zone, the puck found Dustin Penner in the center faceoff circle. Penner circled back bringing the puck down the left wing. He started coiling up for the slap shot with 1.2 seconds left right as he crossed the blue line. "I got all 240 pounds behind that one," Penner remarked.
With 0.8 seconds left the stick made contact with the puck. On its way to the net the puck caught Roman Polak's stick, went over Blues goaltender Brian Elliott's right shoulder, clanged off the iron and went into the net with 0.2 seconds left. The play was reviewed in Toronto and upheld. The Kings had the 2-1 lead.
"That was a fortunate break," Penner said. "A turnover in the neutral zone. [Rob Scuderi] got it up to me, I cut to my wing and I heard the bench yell, 'Shoot.' It's pretty simple after that."
Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock saw all of the miscues that led up to the tally.
"It's a cast of errors," Hitchcock said. "We didn't get the puck deep twice when we had a chance to clear. We didn't check the right player, and it bounced off our stick."
It looked like a goal that Elliott shouldn't have given up, but Hitchcock was quick to defend his goaltender. "We had it twice to get clear, and we panicked with the puck and it ended up in our net."
Sure there were 20 minutes left in the game. The Kings only had a one-goal lead, a recurring theme of this series. But seeing a breakdown as stark as that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"On that play you're just kicking yourself," Blues captain David Backes said. "Those are the little things that get magnified and make a difference in playoff hockey."
What made that goal so devastating was the fact the Blues controlled the second period. By my estimation the puck was in the Kings zone for damn near 15 minutes. Other scribes in the pressbox said I was being too generous for the Kings.
"We definitely know that we can play better," Penner admitted. "They don't call the playoffs the 'second season' for nothing. It's definitely a grind with six games in ten days. Guys are tired, guys are banged up. That's when your will and compete have a chance to shine through, and our's did."
And that resiliency is what really stood out for the Kings. They definitely could have closed up shop after losing the first two games on fluke plays in St. Louis. But the resiliency, the key word the players brought up after their Game 4 win, came into play in that dressing room. There was a resiliency in knowing that even if there was a missed defensive assignment, goaltender Jonathan Quick was there.
Quick made 21 saves but was not a miracle worker. After the Kings killed off the Alec Martinez hooking penalty early in the second period, the puck found David Backes in the slot. Unfortunately for the Blues, Backes' back was towards Quick. Instead he made the pass out to the right point for Polak whose shot hit Chris Porter's stick before sneaking past Quick for the equalizer.
But every game was decided by one goal which made for a pretty exciting series. "It was always shift-to-shift competition the whole way," Sutter commented.
The last, and only, time the Kings won a series after being down 0-2, it was 2001 against the Detroit Red Wings. And if you remember that series required a "Frenzy on Figueroa" or "Stunner at STAPLES" where the Kings overcame a 3-0 deficit in the final six minutes of regulation in Game 4 only to win it in overtime. They also went on to win the series in six games.
No such heroics required this time around especially after winning the Cup last season.
"The run we had last year, we have that sense of confidence that even if we're down we could win some games and get back into it," Quick said. "Guys battled hard. It was a hell of a series."
On the other end of the hallway was a team filled with disappointment. "We had a lot of people play very hard but didn't get the timely goals," Hitchcock said. "That's what the playoffs are, goaltending is a big part of it. I thought the best player of the series was their goalie. In the end he made the big saves wqhen we had the five or six close chances today. He made the big saves."
The Kings second round matchup depends on what happens between the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings in their Game 7 in Anaheim on Sunday. If Anaheim wins, the Kings will go down to Anaheim for Game 1 presumably on Tuesday. If Detroit wins, the Kings host San Jose for Game 1 also presumably on Tuesday.
So things are still up in the air, but after a great hitting series the Kings deserve a day off.
Fun Fact: the last time the Kings won at least one playoff series in consecutive years was the 1989-90 and 1990-91 playoffs.