Of all the missed opportunities for the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, the most costly one was the inability to put the defending Stanley Cup champions in a 3-0 hole.
Even when the crease-crashing Blues knocked the mask off his head, Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick kept his focus and held on for 1-0 victory late Saturday in their best-of-seven playoff series.
The Blues will take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 on Monday in Los Angeles.
Slava Voynov scored in the second period for the defending NHL champions, who got a strong performance from their Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie. Quick made 30 saves in recording his fifth career playoff shutout.
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."
Among the Blues' best scoring chances that were either stopped or sailed wide were two by David Backes and one each from Alexander Steen and Jordan Leopold.
"We didn't cash in on our opportunities and we definitely had plenty," Leopold said. "I was trying to pick a corner. I don't know if I missed the net or it hit him. I lost sight of it when I let go."
"It's the time to stay even-keeled, because these games are all going to be close," Blues goalie Brian Elliott said. "Every play gets amped up, and you've got to take care of details."
After making mistakes that led to both of the Blues' winning goals in St. Louis, Quick won this duel with 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."
"Quickie had to be really good for us tonight, but the way he played is no surprise to anybody," Kings captain Dustin Brown said.
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.
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 for long stretches of the final two periods, wasting a number of good scoring chances. 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.
Blues winger David 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 Kings have rallied from a 0-2 series deficit just once in franchise history, beating Detroit in 2001.