Los Angeles Kings came into the Western Conference playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Tell that to, first, the Vancouver Canucks, and now, to the St. Louis Blues.
The Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks are history, and the No. 2 Blues are on the verge of being bounced themselves.
Feeling like they would get a desperate team on their home ice, the Kings decided to turn the tides on the Blues, and for only the third time in franchise history -- including twice in consecutive series this season -- the Kings head home with a 2-0 series edge.
Anze Kopitar scored twice, Mike Richards had a goal and an assist, Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown assisted on two goals and Jeff Carter added a goal -- all in the first period -- as the Kings head home up two games after blowing past the Blues 5-2 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Monday night at Scottrade Center.
It was an avalanche of goals from the Kings, who outshot the Blues 15-6 and pinned the helpless Blues against the wall and turning them into a mistake-prone unit that is uncharacteristic of the team that led the NHL in goals against (165) during the regular season.
"This is the best time to play for sure," Richards said. "It's fun, it's intense. This is what you play for.
"We have 82 warmup games to play before the playoffs and you want to make the most of it when you get here."
Justin Williams finished with a goal and an assist and Brown collected three assists, while Jonathan Quick improved to 6-1 in the playoffs by stopping 27 shots.
"We got off to a good start," Brown said. "Scoring 30 seconds into the game helps. We didn't let off the gas at all."
The Blues, playing without top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who missed the game with an undisclosed lower-body injury after being hurt in Game 1, were a turnover-prone unit every time they seemed to touch the puck. And every time they made a mistake, the Kings were there to pounce.
"They scored four goals. It was pretty easy," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They were full marks. They checked us hard. They checked us hard and we coughed up the puck. We made mistakes.
"The playoffs is one loss, so you move on. I think there's some obvious things we have to address."
Los Angeles improved to 5-0 on the road in this year's playoffs and 7-0 dating back to last season.
"It seems like we simplify things on the road," Kings center Jarret Stoll said. "We got off to a great start tonight and that was important."
The Kings wasted little time grabbing the lead, when Richards snapped a shot home from the slot 31 seconds into the game when Penner picked Kevin Shattenkirk from behind in the Blues' zone, powered his way to the net before the puck caromed into the slot, beating Brian Elliott.
"The first goal was a perfect example ... the game's at a furious pace and we've just got to get it deep and we try and make an extra play," Hitchcock said. "We're trying to create something from nothing; next thing you know, we're picking it out of our net. That's an attitude. We're trying to force offense.
"The way we finished Game 1 is the same way we started Game 2. We're trying to force offense when it's not there. They're pressing up and we've just got to make them turn like we did in the second and third period. When you try to force offense, you try to play east-west. Against this team, they check too well, and they just turned the puck right up on us three times -- and two were in the net."
Then, Kopitar (twice) and Carter scored three times in a span of 5:27, with Kopitar giving L.A. a 2-0 lead with their fourth shorthanded goal after Brown intercepted Carlo Colaiacovo in the Blues' zone and fed Kopitar, who dangled around Elliott and tucked the puck into the back side with 5:44 left in the period.
It was Brown's fourth shorthanded point in the playoffs, the most in a postseason since Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg tallied five in 2008.
"We were putting some pretty good pressure on their defense," Kopitar said. "I was kind of reading the play and ready to jump in. The instincts kicked in. The way it went in, I was pretty happy with it. A pretty big goal, I guess."
Carter made it 3-0 with 1:23 left in the period when his initial shot rode off Roman Polak's stick, hit the Blues' defenseman in the face, and Carter collected the loose puck and roofed a shot from the slot.
Kopitar scored again with 16.8 seconds left in the period, backhanding a feed from Williams past Elliott for a 4-0 lead.
The last time the Kings scored four goals in a period in the playoffs was May 7, 1993 against Vancouver in the third period, when they scored five times.
"I'm fine with [the offense] showing up right now," Brown said. "We have some big guys that are leaning on some defensemen of theirs that are probably on the smaller side."
The Blues, who likely took a tongue-lashing from Hitchcock between periods, got an Andy McDonald goal 18 seconds into the second period, but Williams restored the Kings' four-goal lead when he backhanded a loose puck in the crease 1:26 into the second to make it 5-1.
Matt D'Agostini's first of the playoffs got the Blues closer at 5-2 when he sniped a shot to the short side off David Backes' second assist 5:16 into the third.
If the Blues were going to try and build off something heading into Thursday's Game 3 in Los Angeles, T.J. Oshie planted Penner in the Kings' zone with a clean hit that got players' blood flowing resulting in a Blues' power play, which has been futile this series. They were 0-for-9 Monday, 0-for-12 in the series and 0-for-23 against L.A. this season. The Blues head to L.A. now for two games, where they haven't scored a goal this season, being shut out twice.
"We've got some looking in the mirror to do, some regrouping and we need to make some changes," Backes said. "We're better. X's and O's or film, we've done that to death. It's about intestinal fortitude and coming together as a group and going to the hard areas and showing some (guts). They showed it for the first two games for the full 60 minutes and we didn't, and that's why we have an 0-2 hole to dig ourselves out."
The Kings head home feeling good about themselves but are expecting a desperate Blues team to show up for Game 3.
"We have a big challenge ahead of us," said Quick, who has a 1.56 goals-against average and .952 save percentage in the postseason. "We know they are going to come out hard in Game 3 and we've got to be ready."
Hitchcock said he was hopefully with a couple days between games, Pietrangelo would be available for Game 3. Also, the Blues' coach ruled out goalie Jaroslav Halak (lower-body) for the remainder of the series.