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ROYAL ROAD REPORT: "STILL FIGHTING'

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
ST. LOUIS -- The Kings threw all they had into their game with the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. It was a regular season game with a playoff-like atmosphere.

But for the first time this season, the Blues got the best of the Kings, thanks to a fierce third period.

Rookie Patrik Berglund scored two third-period goals, the winner coming on the power play 7:56 into the final 20 minutes and Chris Mason registered 22 saves for his fifth shutout of the season in the Blues' 2-0 win over the Kings Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.

It was a pivotal game for both teams, as the Blues improved to 34-30-9 on the season, good for 77 points to pull them within one point of eighth place in the Western Conference. The Kings, now 1-3-0 on a six-game trip, fell for the third time in a row and dropped to 30-33-10, good for 70 points that dropped them eight points back of a playoff spot with nine games to play.

The Kings finished 3-1-0 against the Blues this season.

"There's not a big difference (between the teams)," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It came down to the end of the game, the third period. It's a 0-0 game until the power play goal. There's not a lot of difference."

1ST PERIOD NOTES
The Kings, who had 15 shots for the game in Sunday's 4-1 loss at Chicago, fired 11 shots at the Blues Tuesday, including five during the team's second power play of the game. They also had the period's last eight shots, but the Kings came away empty-handed.

Derek Armstrong was whistled for a roughing penalty 8:16 into the period, but the Kings' penalty killers were up to the task.

The Kings, who scored three power-play goals in each of the last two wins over the Blues, were 0-for-2 in the period.

"Guys were shooting the puck well," defenseman Matt Greene said. "I think that's when our power play's working best when we're getting traffic. Guys were getting chances in there. I think in the middle of the game, we were getting chances, but they were up to the task. They didn't give a lot of second chances. Any time you get a shutout, you're doing something well defensively."

2ND PERIOD NOTES
The second period was more defense-oriented between the teams and the shots reflected that notion, with the Blues out-shooting LA 6-4.

But neither team could get a puck past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick or Mason for the second period as the game was scoreless heading into the final 20 minutes.

"There's a lot of intensity in the game," Murray said. "Both teams are pouring into it. There was some pretty heavy play going on both ways. The first period was a very good period. We were doing the right stuff, getting it in, forechecking, cycling at both ends, some chances by both teams.

"Through the early part of the second, it was the same way. There was good stuff happening. Special teams, penalty killing was a big part of what was happening."

The Kings' best chance came when Jarret Stoll fired high and wide on a shorthanded breakaway chance with 9:23 remaining in the period. But chances were tough to come by as both teams were playing tight, defensive-oriented.

"Shots were 15-10 after two periods," Quick said. "That's the kind of game it was going to be."

3RD PERIOD NOTES
The Blues picked up their intensity and got the first chance to crack a scoreless game and Berglund made good on a shot from David Perron that came off the back boards around to the other side of the net. Berglund knocked the puck into an empty side for a 1-0 lead.

The Blues, who finished 1-for-5 on the power play, got the chance when Kings defenseman Davis Drewiske was in the box for cross checking.

"I had (Keith) Tkachuk right there in front trying to set up a screen," Quick said. "I believe it hit his shin pads and bounced off the boards right on the guy's stick there and he had an open net."

Berglund, who tallied one goal in his previous 22 games, gave the Blues a 2-0 cushion with a goal at 13:13, converting a backhand in a crowded crease after Quick made an initial save. But the puck dropped into the crease and Berglund found it and put it past Greene.

"I just lost the puck in the jerseys," Quick said. "It must have fallen behind me. The puck was there in the crease and he put it in the net."

POWER-PLAY WOES
The Kings, who converted 6-of-12 chances in beating the Blues the previous two meetings, were 0-for-6 Tuesday night despite getting some good chances, particularly early in the game.

"Before, we didn't have trouble scoring goals and tonight, we did," Greene said. "They've been keeping the number of goals down and that was the biggest difference (against) us tonight."

STILL FIGHTING FOR PLAYOFFS
Despite falling eight points behind eighth place in the Western Conference race, the Kings will continue to battle until the last whistle of the last period of the regular season or until they are mathematically eliminated.

"We are in the playoff hunt," winger Michal Handzus said. "Obviously, we are farther away than we wanted to be, but we still want to win some games.

"We have to win the game in front of us and go from there. You cannot watch the standings too much because we know where our position is. We just have to take it one game at a time and win a game. We're still learning. We know we have must-win games every time."

It's a long-shot that the Kings can somehow leapfrog over five teams, but they will at least play hard so the road for the future is set.

"We look at them with a lot of excitement and energy. Whether we make the playoffs or not, these are growing games for us as a team," captain Dustin Brown said. "They're huge and important games for us as a team. From a growth standpoint, these are playoff atmosphere games, playoff teams that are fighting for playoff spots. We want to be in the playoffs this year or any year to come after. These are games we're going to have to learn how to play in."

ROAD WEARY
Long trips can become taxing on any team. But when it's a six-game trip at the end of the season when players are banged up can make the excursion more challenging.

"You kind of prepare yourself for it," Brown said. "At the same time, these are important games and desperate times for most teams in the league. You just have to take it a day at a time."

QUOTES
Derek Armstrong

On playing out the remaining games
"Whether you're in last place or in first place, you've got to win hockey games. That's our job and that's how we're supposed to take it as professionals. We're competitive people. We like to compete every night and that's what we're going to do. We're going to go and compete and try to win hockey games."

Matt Greene
On the intensity of the game
"They woke us up a little bit in the first 10 minutes. We were up to the challenge, but giving up a late one like that always hurts."

Terry Murray
On the Game
"It was very intense, very hard-working, and a very meaningful game."

On the difference in tonight's power play
"A lot of blocked shots. That's one thing St. Louis does. We did a real good job until the end when Berglund scores."

On what young players on the team are getting out of the late-season games
"This is an important time for them to learn. Your young guys often go through the season with lots of energy and about the 60-game mark, they may tail off a little bit. ... It's really important that these games have an understanding what these games mean."

On the third period

"We had some good scoring opportunities and then their team came out and played well in the third. We didn't have much going."

Compiled by Louie Korac/Special to lakings.com

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