ST. LOUIS -- Jonathan Quick is a Vezina Trophy finalist for a reason. The Los Angeles Kings' goalie was their savior in Game 1 the Western Conference Semifinals.
Quick's key saves in the early going enabled the Kings to avoid allowing the St. Louis Blues to build an insurmountable lead. Instead, L.A. was able to stay close and wrestle home ice away from the second-seeded Blues. Defensemen Slava Voynov and Matt Greene scored their first career playoff goals and Quick stopped 28 shots as the Kings beat the Blues 3-1 on Saturday night at Scottrade Center to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"It was a great win," said Quick, who is 5-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average and .955 save percentage through six playoff games. "We get to enjoy it for five minutes and then focus on Monday."
Game 2 is Monday night (9 p.m. ET; CBNC, TSN, RDSI).
David Backes scored and Brian Elliott stopped 26 shots for the Blues, who hadn't played since eliminating San Jose a week ago. But they came out like they hadn't missed a beat, with no week-long layover visible for most of the first period. St. Louis took the game's first six shots and grabbed the lead when Backes' deflection went past a screened Quick 9:16 into the game.
It was the Blues' first goal against the Kings in 105:38, dating back to Jamie Langenbrunner's goal on Feb. 3.
If not for Quick, the Blues could have run away with the game in the early going. He robbed Andy McDonald twice from point-blank range in the game's first minute, then kicked out B.J. Crombeen's backhand effort with 8:18 left in the period to keep it a 1-0 game.
"We were able to kind of weather the storm a little bit. They got one early but we were able to get one back at the end of the first and we continued strong play through the last two periods," Quick said. "Whenever you're on the road no matter what time of the year it is, you expect the other team to come out flying in the first 10 minutes on home ice like that. This team is no different obviously. They're one of the best teams on home ice for a reason, and that first 10 minutes really put us on our heels for a little bit but we weathered the storm and were able to tie it up at the end of the first."
Added Kings captain Dustin Brown: "That's the advantage of having a guy like that in the net. Early in the game, we needed him to make some big saves and he did. We grinded the rest of the game out and get a 'W.'"
Quick's heroics enabled the Kings to kill a penalty to Mike Richards and get their legs -- and they got the equalizer when Voynov snuck in from the point to convert Dustin Penner's centering feed with 3:02 left in the period after a Barret Jackman turnover. Penner took the puck away from Jackman along the right boards and slid a pass across the slot to Voynov, who buried it past Elliott for the Kings' first goal against the Blues in 147:47, dating back to Willie Mitchell's third-period goal here on Nov. 22.
It was also the first playoff goal by a Kings rookie defenseman since Alexei Zhitnik scored one in 1993.
"I think killing the penalty for us the first period [the cross-checking penalty on Richards] was probably the biggest difference in the game," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "They came out exactly the way they wanted to come out. The building ... the way it always is in St. Louis, they had lots of energy early."
The Blues came out of the first period feeling like they played like they wanted -- but with a 1-1 score, it wasn't the result they were looking for.
"First period was exactly what we needed," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We just didn't ... we made a couple mistakes on the first goal, played a great first period, but then I thought we kind of exited the game after that.
"We did what we needed to do in the first period and then we deferred. We moved the puck trying to look for the next play rather than funnel the puck. We're supposed to funnel like we did in the first period, but then we deferred in the second."
Forward Alex Steen agreed.
"The beginning of the game, we certainly had some chances, had some good zone time, some buzz," Steen said. "We couldn't get the puck to really go. We had the one, but then after that, they kind of took over there as this game went on. We spent some time in the box and couldn't really get any momentum."
The Kings took the lead with their third shorthanded goal of the playoffs when Greene popped in a loose puck with 1:03 left in the second period. The Blues won an offensive zone faceoff following a Dwight King boarding penalty that only drew two minutes for pushing Pietrangelo into the corner boards from behind. But the puck skipped past Kevin Shattenkirk, and Dustin Brown was off to the races.
Elliott stopped Brown's initial shot, but Greene was there to lift home the rebound for a 2-1 lead. Greene’s shorthanded goal was just the second by a defenseman in Kings playoff history. Rob Blake had one in 1993.
"That's not my job," Greene said of his goal. "Just kind of got lucky on the play, I was following it up. I took a chance. Brownie had a jump there. I was looking for a drop or maybe to be a decoy. The puck was laying there. I just tried to chip it."
Pietrangelo, whose head hit the boards, left the game and did not return. The Blues said Pietrangelo, who leads the team in ice time during the playoffs with 26:15 per game, would be re-evaluated Sunday. They were not happy with the call that sent King to the box for just two minutes.
"Obviously it's a dangerous hit," McDonald said. "He goes in and those are the types of hits that guys get hurt really bad. I haven't talked to him or I don't know his condition, but hopefully he's OK. I was surprised to [only] see two minutes."
Hitchcock said he wasn't given much of an explanation.
"They said it was a two-minute penalty," Hitchcock said of referees Eric Furlatt and Stephen Walkom. "That's what they said.
"Why don't we let the League decide if there's anything there. We're more concerned about the play. ... We'll evaluate [Pietrangelo] tonight and give you an update tomorrow."
King was defending himself afterwards.
"I mean, I didn't really try to put a lot of force into it obviously ... I guess obviously you never like to see a guy go out that way but obviously on our play we took advantage on the PK and it kind of [swung] the game," King said. "We were both going for the puck. It was kind of slow obviously. I tried to position myself a little bit on the inside of him and when I did that, I leaned on him and I guess he was off-balance and fell in."
The Blues were never able to mount much offense in the third period -- partly because they had to kill eight minutes in penalties in a stretch of 8:47.
Hitchcock said his team has to be prepared to ramp up its game to even the series on Monday.
"When you play Los Angeles, there's a price to pay to win," Hitchcock said. "There's a high price to pay. If we expect to win the next game, we're going to have to pay a bigger price than the one we paid. I don't just mean physical play. I mean they defend well, they keep you to the outside, they've got big defensemen and what happened in the first period was we got to the inside, we worked hard to get there and then we allowed ourselves to stay to the outside.
"Once they got the 2-1 lead, they kept everything to the outside and we shot ourselves in the foot in the third period with penalties."
Penner's 150-foot empty-netter with 14.2 seconds sealed another road win for the Kings, who are 4-0 away from Staples Center in the playoffs and have won six straight postseason road games.
"I think we're comfortable playing on the road," Greene said. "I think in the last two seasons we've had to make a pretty good stretch run to make the playoffs and you've got to win a lot of those games on the road and a lot of that is just goaltending. Quickie has given us some good minutes back there and great games and he kept us in there in the first and we were lucky to rebound after that."