Blues fully expect Game 2 to be all-out assault by Kings

News-DemocratMay 1, 2013 

— While the St. Louis Blues were happy to end an eight-game losing streak to the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, the Blues know what lies ahead.

They fully expect Game 2 to be an all-out assault by a veteran team that knows what it takes to win in the playoffs.

A year ago, the Kings never trailed in any series on their way to the championship, leading each series 3-0 along the way. Meanwhile, the Blues should know the value of not placing too much emphasis on a Game 1 overtime win.

Last year, San Jose beat the Blues 3-2 in double-overtime in Game 1, only to see the Blues roar back to win four straight and advance to the second round.

"We are going to have to continue to play better if we expect to push them out," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team owns a 1-0 series lead following Tuesday's 2-1 overtime victory. "They're not going to go anywhere easily. We like some of the things in our game, but we know we're going to get a completely different response (Thursday) -- and we're going to have to be ready for it."

The Kings won't want to be trailing the series 2-0 heading back to Los Angele.

The Blues hope to continue their aggressive forechecking that served them well in the Game 1 win. It was their first win over the Kings since a 1-0 victory on Feb. 3, 2012.

"I expect them to come out like we came out (Tuesday)," Blues winger Ryan Reaves said. "I expect them to come out real physical, flying and shooting everything on the net. We're going to have to take it in ourselves to push back even harder.

"We're going to have to out-do their physicality because you know they're going to come hard, they usually do."

Besides their physical play and aggressive assault on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who had 40 saves, the Blues also won an impressive 64 percent of the faceoffs.

Particularly effective were Andy McDonald (8-1) and David Backes (14-6).

"It's one of the little things that becomes more important in the playoffs and more relevant," McDonald explained. "It shows up a lot more in the power play (and) penalty kill, late in games...if it's a one-goal game or a tight game, we need to start with the puck so hopefully we can continue that."

The Blues also kept another impressive streak going. They have won seven straight at home with Brian Elliott in net -- allowing just one goal in each of those seven games.

Tuesday also marked the first time the Blues won Game 1 of a playoff series since they knocked off Vancouver in 2003.

Elliott's last 14 games include a 12-2 record, 1.24 goals-against average, .949 save percentage and three shutouts.

Seven times in his last eight starts Elliott has held the opposition to one or no goals and he has won seven straight at home counting Game 1 of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Kings star Anze Kopitar has now gone 17 games without a goal and Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr suffered a broken nose in Game 1 when it was hit by a skate.

McDonald is certain the Blues have poked their hockey sticks into an angry Kings' hornets' nest following the Game 1 overtime victory.

"You can feel good about it and we did a lot of things really well," he said, "but we're going to have to improve a little bit, play a little bit tighter in spots and realize it's going to be a lot harder tomorrow night.."

Hitchcock said his team is learning how to win, an exam already passed by the Kings in 2012.

"It's a step, we've taken steps," Hitchcock said. "We took another step in the right direction but geez, it's one hockey game. They've been in lots of these battles."

Hitchcock knows how important each win will be in this series.

"When you're the defending champion, you can't just knock them off," Hitchcock said. "You're going to have to stick a pretty big nail in them. We're just getting started in the series."

Blues winger Alex Steen scored two goals in Game 1, including the short-handed game-winner in overtime. Steen noticed how the Blues responded well despite allowing the tying goal with 31.6 seconds remaining that forced overtime.

"Obviously it was unfortunate for them to get that goal at the end of the third," he said. "But I liked our vibe gong into the dressing room after the third (period). It was a very positive 'Let's get this done' vibe."'

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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