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Kings advance to second round with 2-1 win

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- Perhaps only Dustin Penner could provide poetic justice to this pound-for-pound tug-of-war.

Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter complained almost all season long about the lack of production from his left wings, and Penner was among the guilty parties with 11 healthy scratches next to his name. Then Penner made sense of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series Friday night with an eye-opening, series-clinching goal for a 2-1 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 on Friday night.

Penner scored on a 60-foot slap shot with 0.2 seconds remaining in the second period that moved the defending Stanley Cup champions into the conference semifinals. Down 2-0 in the series, L.A. swept the next four and recorded its 10th win in a row at home.

"It's kind of like a sweep, I guess," Penner said. "It's definitely a relief. They played a great series. They got unlucky a few times and I think we got lucky. It was a great series."

St. Louis lost a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time in 11 tries after taking a 2-0 lead. It fell to 0-8 in its past eight elimination games, dating to April 23, 2000. It was the second straight year that the lower-seeded Kings eliminated the Blues.

"It's getting to be a broken record, but we still didn't get the job done," St. Louis captain David Backes said. "It's about winning four games to win a series. Up 2-0 and to lose four straight is pretty sour right now."

This fell in line with arguably the most closely-contested series of the postseason. Every game was decided by one goal and few penalties were handed out. The teams combined for 479 hits. They played six grueling games in 11 days.

"It was good battles and good hits and hard hits," L.A. center Anze Kopitar said. "I guess when it's all said and done you shake the guy's hand and it means a lot. Even if you don't say a whole lot, there's still some respect."

Sutter talked about the grind of the series and climbing out of the 2-0 hole.

"It's not easy," Sutter said. "There was a lot of pressure on our players. I've said all year, they've handled it really well. They had a tough hole, this series."

Asked how good his team is, Sutter said, ""We're beat up and tired and we'll practice on Sunday and know by Monday who we'll play."

Just when it seemed like the teams would go to their dressing rooms tied 1-1 after 40 minutes, Penner brought Staples Center to life. He got the puck in the neutral zone, skated down left wing and let go a slap shot a stride inside the blue line. The puck appeared to skip off Roman Polak and went past Brian Elliott an instant before the horn.

"I think it hit my skate," Polak said. "I should just let it go. I should just probably let it go for Ells to see. It was like two seconds left in the period. It was a bad play by me."

Penner said his teammates were yelling at him from the bench with the clock winding down, and added that his college coach once told him to shoot it in stride to catch the goalie off. This wasn't quite in stride but Penner put in his unique way.

"I put everything into it – all 242.5 pounds," Penner said. "It may have deflected off a shaft. It was going pretty hard."

Elliott faced 16 shots on the night, just three in the final period. Ultimately, he couldn't match Jonathan Quick, who stopped 167 of 177 shots for a .944 save percentage for the series. Quick has 24 postseason wins, two shy of the club record held by Kelly Hrudey.

Elliott talked to a small group of reporters afterward about the one that got away, or behind him.

"I saw it come off because it was going low first, but what can you say?" Elliott said. "You can't put blame on [Polak] for trying to get in front of a puck. We're all trying to do our best out there. Obviously he's frustrated, we're all frustrated that had to be the one we couldn't get back."

Chris Porter made it 1-1 with his first career playoff goal, although he never got his stick on the puck. Backes got the puck out from his feet and fed Polak at the right point, and the defenseman ripped a shot that bounced off Porter's side and into the goal at 4:39 of the second period.

Polak made up for the Kings' first goal. Drew Doughty highlighted a slow-starting opening period with a fake-slap wrist shot from the left side in which Polak backed up while defending him. Doughty beat Elliott to the short side at 12:37. Dwight King sprung a rush up ice to Colin Fraser, who dropped a pass to Doughty just inside the blue line.

"He made a great move," Polak said. "He kind of stopped me there on the move. He made it look like he was going to shoot a slapper. He waited and shot it strong side. It was a pretty good shot. It was a good play."

It was Doughty's first postseason goal since Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final last June.

St. Louis nearly evened it when Stewart clanged a shot off the left post with about five minutes left in the period.

Los Angeles scratched wing Kyle Clifford. He did not participate with the team at the morning skate and coach Sutter said it was a "maintenance day."

L.A. will play either the rival Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks in the semifinals. Would they prefer home-ice advantage against the Sharks or going down the freeway for the first ever Ducks-Kings series?

"You just can't say," Quick said. "Either way it's going to be a great series."

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