One game after finally getting his first win as coach of the Blues, Andy Murray tries to earn his second at the expense of his former club Thursday when St. Louis hosts the Los Angeles Kings.
Murray coached the Kings for five-plus seasons before being fired with 12 games remaining in 2005-2006 due to his team's wild inconsistency down the stretch. Los Angeles went 0-5-2 in a seven-game stretch, then reeled off five consecutive wins around the Olympic break before another slump in which it won only two of seven games. The final slide ultimately left the Kings out of the playoffs and helped lead to Murray's firing.
Murray remains the Kings' franchise leader in wins (210) and games coached (480). He reached the playoffs his first three seasons, including a 2001 run to the conference semifinals.
After taking over the Blues (8-19-6) on Dec. 11, Murray needed five games to get his first win, a 4-1 victory Tuesday at Pittsburgh. Doug Weight and Dan Hinote each had a goal and an assist for St. Louis, which snapped an 11-game losing streak with its first victory since a shootout win at Detroit on Nov. 24.
The Blues had not won in regulation since defeating Edmonton on Nov. 12.
"We've been so close, it was disappointing the last couple of games," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "We knew Pittsburgh was a great offensive team and if we played a good defensive team game, we had a chance to win it."
Bill Guerin also scored for the Blues, netting his team-high 13th goal to equal his total from last season with the Dallas Stars.
Murray is still trying to get his team to improve on the penalty kill. St. Louis has allowed at least one power-play goal in eight consecutive games, and has been short-handed 38 times in Murray's first five games.
St. Louis has also lost seven consecutive home games, getting just one point in that span while being outscored 24-10. It is uncertain who will start in goal for the Blues after Manny Legace had to be replaced after the first period Tuesday due to flu-like symptoms. Jason Bacashihua stopped 16 of 17 shots in the final two periods to preserve the win.
Murray's successor in Los Angeles, Marc Crawford, is trying to avoid a third consecutive loss. The Kings (12-18-5), already a distant 31 points behind the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division, are looking to regroup from a 5-3 defeat Tuesday to Calgary in which rookie Anze Kopitar had two goals and an assist.
Goaltender Dan Cloutier made 26 saves after missing the previous two games with a shoulder injury, but appeared to suffer from the layoff as he allowed two goals in the first 4:10 of the game.
"It was not a good way to start the game," Cloutier said. "We had a few crucial mistakes and the puck was at the back of the net. We did a good job battling back, but we made some key mistakes that cost us in the second period."
After being held to one assist in five previous games, the 19-year-old Kopitar has bounced back with a season-high four-game points streak, totaling four goals and three assists in that span. He had three assists in a 4-1 victory over St. Louis on Oct. 7, the lone meeting between the teams this season.
Murray's last win as Kings coach was a 3-1 victory over the Blues on March 18, which completed a season sweep for Los Angeles. Before its current five-game losing streak to Los Angeles, St. Louis had won the previous six matchups between the clubs.