LOS ANGELES – The stars finally came out to play for the Los Angeles Kings, bright enough to shine that Stanley Cup champion mettle.
L.A. has evened the series at 2-2 going into Game 5 on Wednesday in St. Louis, and it might as well pack along that defending champion mojo in its duffel bag.
The Kings erased a 2-0 deficit in the first period and trailed 3-2 in the third. It was the first time they were down by two goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game and won since April 18, 2001, against the Detroit Red Wings. The difference this time around was evident in a calm Kings locker room.
"We're an experienced team," said Williams, easily L.A.'s best forward in this series. "We've been through a lot, and we knew we needed a response. We were down a goal, facing a daunting task of going to St. Louis down, 3-1. But we found it within ourselves.
"Certainly being through it before, last year, and having experience with the same group in here in pressure situations lets us know that we can do it."
Kopitar snapped a career-high 19-game goal-scoring drought with a tap-in to reward great work in the corner by Dustin Brown at 7:14. Williams tipped Mike Richards' shot from the left side that went in on the far side past Brian Elliott at 8:30.
"It's hard to explain but every time you're going through a drought of 20? Nineteen?" said Kopitar, who last scored March 25. "I don't even know. When you get that one, you feel about 100 pounds lighter. I felt pretty good after that."
The confetti fell from the rafters for the first time since the team raised the Cup last June. The top line of Williams, Kopitar and Brown, plus Carter, combined for 15 of L.A.'s 29 shots.
"That's what they're supposed to do," coach Darryl Sutter said. "That's what the series is about. If you covered the playoffs last year, it's about big goals – not who scores them, but at the same time, who normally leads your team in scoring. You have to be close to that."
St. Louis didn't take advantage of plenty on the night. T.J. Oshie, who had no goals in 16 previous postseason games, scored twice to give St. Louis a 3-2 lead going into the third period. He pounced on a rebound from the right side at 5:46 of the second after Vladimir Sobotka took the shot on a rush.
Elliott backstopped St. Louis superbly in a second period that was played mostly in the Blues' end. He made a right-to-left leg stop on Kopitar and another when Richards partially fanned, but still put it on net. Then the third period arrived and St. Louis seemed helpless.
"I think it was just a continuation of the second period, to be honest with you," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They took the game to another level. Tonight we didn't have answer.
"We made two mistakes, two really poor mistakes to give them odd-man rushes to get them back in the game. But even when it's 3-2, they were playing better than we were."
L.A. forged a 2-2 tie going into the first intermission on two good-looking odd-man rushes.
"You look at it system-wise, we weren't real sharp tonight," Leopold said. "I thought I'd get the puck and it didn't work out that way. You're going to have nights like that. We've got to bounce back here.
"There's definitely decisions on the ice that you'd like to have back, but that's the name of the game. We tried to recover from mistakes and make the best of it, but it is a game of mistakes and they were fortunate enough to be able to capitalize on them."
Carter, the NHL's fourth-leading scorer, finally appeared in the series when he completed a 2-on-1 during 4-on-4 play with Richards, who delivered a soft saucer pass over Oshie that Carter grabbed and backhanded at 9:43.
Given the nature of the series, the Blues' 2-0 edge in the first five minutes – the first two-goal lead of the series -- felt like 5-0. Backes ripped the puck into an open net 72 seconds in after Jay Bouwmeester's shot went wide left and bounced out the other side to fool Jonathan Quick.
Oshie scored 3:20 later. He tipped Shattenkirk's point shot to end the Blues' 0-for-12 power play skid.
The Kings didn't face many deficits in their Cup run, but they are a tight enough team to withstand such adversity. The last won a playoff game when trailing after two periods on April 22, 2012 against the Vancouver Canucks.
"It's not about morale on our team," Sutter said. "It sounds repetitive, but this team has resilience. There was no faction, when it was 0-2, that it was 'Throw it in' or 'What's going on?' That's not the way it works."
St. Louis inserted Vladimir Tarasenko for the first time in the postseason. He played 5:51 minutes on the fourth line and didn't record a shot. Los Angeles again went with seven defensemen.
|David Backes (1) ASST: Jay Bouwmeester (1), Vladimir Sobotka (2)|
1 - 0 STL
|PPG - T.J. Oshie (1) ASST: Kevin Shattenkirk (2), David Perron (2)|
2 - 0 STL
|Jeff Carter (1) ASST: Mike Richards (2), Robyn Regehr (1)|
2 - 1 STL
|Dustin Penner (1) ASST: Jarret Stoll (1), Alec Martinez (2)|
2 - 2 Tie
|T.J. Oshie (2) ASST: Vladimir Sobotka (3), Patrik Berglund (1)|
3 - 2 STL
|Anze Kopitar (1) ASST: Dustin Brown (1), Jake Muzzin (2)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Justin Williams (2) ASST: Mike Richards (3), Dwight King (1)|
4 - 3 LAK
|Power Play %||22.3%||19.0%|
|% on Road||25.4%||15.3%|
|% at Home||19.4%||22.1%|
|Colin Fraser Hi-sticking against Ryan Reaves|
|Alexander Steen Cross checking against Drew Doughty|
|Drew Doughty Interference against Alexander Steen|
|Barret Jackman Cross checking against Kyle Clifford|
|Alex Pietrangelo Roughing against Jeff Carter|
|Jeff Carter Slashing against Alex Pietrangelo|
|Barret Jackman Tripping against Trevor Lewis|
|Anze Kopitar Tripping against Patrik Berglund|