LOS ANGELES (AP) — From the opening minutes to St. Louis’ final flurries, Jonathan Quick played every puck with the desperate determination necessary to win the Stanley Cup.
Even when the crease-crashing Blues knocked his mask off his head, the Kings’ gritty goalie kept his focus on a win that got Los Angeles back into a tense first-round series dominated by defense.
Quick made 30 saves in his fifth career playoff shutout, leading the Kings to a 1-0 victory Saturday night and trimming the Blues’ series lead to 2-1.
Slava Voynov scored in the second period for the defending NHL champions, who got a brilliant performance from their Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie.
After making self-described mistakes that led to both of the Blues’ winning goals in St. Louis, Quick won his duel with Brian Elliott, who stopped 20 shots.
“It’s what you expect when these two teams play each other,” Quick said. “They were just throwing pucks from everywhere, but we handled it well and cleaned up most of the rebounds.”
Los Angeles will attempt to even the series in Game 4 on Monday night.
After struggling on the power play and getting bad luck on a handful of chances, St. Louis even resorted to more unconventional means to mess with Quick.
David Perron appeared to dive into Quick in the crease in the third period, with Quick’s mask coming off his head in an exchange that ended with the Blues getting a power play, thanks to Drew Doughty’s overreaction.
None of it could throw Quick off the formidable game that carried the Kings to the Cup last season.
“Quickie had to be really good for us tonight, but the way he played is no surprise to anybody,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said.
The Blues’ power play hasn’t scored in 12 straight opportunities since early in the series opener, and they wasted plenty of good chances against Quick in Game 3. Elliott has allowed just three goals in the series, but Quick kept the Kings unbeaten at home since March 23.
“You’re not going to get very many games like this where you get this many quality chances on the road,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We were unlucky, more than anything.”
Staples Center was packed with black-clad, towel-waving fans who fondly remember the Kings’ nearly surreal run through last spring’s playoffs.
Eighth-seeded Los Angeles went 16-4 in the postseason, beating the Western Conference’s top three seeds and taking a 3-0 lead in every series — an NHL first — on the way to its first Stanley Cup title.
The Kings never faced an elimination game or even a tight spot last spring, but the fourth-seeded Blues immediately put them in a jam in this series with consecutive victories at home.
Quick sought the blame for both losses after allowing the overtime winner in the opener and a last-minute goal in Game 2, but his teammates realized they deserved the blame for their meager offensive effort against Elliott, who got outplayed by Quick in last year’s playoff series.
“It’s the time to stay even-keeled, because these games are all going to be close,” Elliott said. “Every play gets amped up, and you’ve got to take care of details.”
The scoreless, tight-checking first period of Game 3 reflected the nervousness in the arena. After Los Angeles killed off a penalty early in the second, Voynov capitalized on a lengthy scramble in front of Elliott’s net, putting a shot through traffic into the far corner for the Russian defenseman’s first playoff goal since last season’s second-round series opener against St. Louis.
The Blues largely dominated puck possession and good scoring chances for long stretches of the final two periods. Alexander Steen, who scored both of the Blues’ goals in Game 1, inexplicably couldn’t put it into a fairly open net on a power play late in the period, shanking his shot.
During Perron’s shenanigans in the third, Doughty followed Perron into the net and slugged the Blues forward several times, drawing a double minor for roughing and putting St. Louis on a fruitless power play. Perron and Quick have jawed throughout the series, and Perron claimed the Blues were “starting to get to” Los Angeles’ star goalie after Game 2.
Elliott kept the Blues in it with less than 7 minutes left, stopping Dwight King on a clean breakaway. Justin Williams then saved the Kings with about 5 minutes left, diving to knock away a loose puck on the edge of the crease.
“When it gets late in the game like that, you’re trying everything you can to stop the puck,” Williams said. “The story for us was Jonathan Quick, though. That’s the difference for us.”
St. Louis was swept out of the second round in four games last spring by Los Angeles, which outscored the Blues 15-6 while ending their breakthrough season under Jack Adams Trophy-winning coach Ken Hitchcock.
The Blues turned in another strong regular season this winter, even surging past Los Angeles and San Jose into the fourth playoff seed in the final days.
The Kings went 19-4-1 at home this season, posting the best points percentage at home in franchise history. They finished the regular season with seven straight wins at Staples Center.
NOTES: The Kings scratched C Jordan Nolan and dressed D Alec Martinez, who hadn’t played since April 2. Martinez, who picked up an assist on Voynov’s goal, was a key member of last season’s defensive group, but fell out of favor in March after his return from an upper-body injury. Los Angeles dressed seven defensemen. … St. Louis used the same lineup from its first two victories. … The Kings have rallied from a 0-2 series deficit just once in franchise history, beating Detroit in 2001.