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Kings send Blues to fifth consecutive loss

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Suddenly, Scottrade Center is becoming a happy haven for visiting teams. The Los Angeles Kings were the latest beneficiaries.

Jeff Carter scored twice, and the Kings won for only the second time in six tries by beating the free-falling St. Louis Blues 4-1 Monday night, the Blues' fourth loss in a row on home ice and fifth in a row (0-4-1).

Jonathan Bernier picked up his first win of the season in only his second start by stopping 21 shots, Davis Drewiske and Jarret Stoll added goals and Slava Voynov collected a pair of assists, as the Kings (4-5-2) felt good about their game coming along despite a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss at Detroit 24 hours earlier, a game in which the game-winner was scored with 4.5 seconds remaining.

"We're on the right direction, that's for sure," Carter said. "I think we thought Detroit was our best overall game.

"We were solid tonight, we did what we had to on the road. It's not easy coming in here and playing these guys -- it's a step in the right direction."

The Blues have lost five in a row for the first time since Jan. 2-12, 2011, when they were also 0-4-1. They’ve also dropped four in a row at home for the first time since Jan. 23-Feb. 6, 2010, when they were 0-2-2.

Alex Steen had the lone goal for the Blues, who have been outscored 21-8 on this homestand.

The Blues also caught everyone off-guard when Jaroslav Halak, who was listed as the starter for the game, was a late scratch. The team did not immediately announce anything, but reports indicated Halak re-aggravating the groin strain that caused him to miss the last three-plus games in pre-game warm-ups. Halak is 3-0-0 on the season, but it was a struggling Brian Elliott -- who stopped 19 shots -- that played against the Kings.

"This was the homestand from hell," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We lost our goalie, we didn't play as well and now we've got to take this onto the road and we've got to be much more accountable for each other. We don't compete at a high level for 60 minutes and we pay the price because of it.

"[Halak's injury] just happened so quick ... it was after the warm-ups. ... I think everybody was in a little bit of shock. It is what it is. He had three really good days of practice and then I don't know, somewhere in the warm-up, he pulled it again. It isn't good for us right now ... it's not good for the team right now. We're just going to have to learn to battle through it."

Blues captain David Backes was not careful with his choice of words afterwards.

"We've got too many guys out there looking at the stat sheet wondering how many goals and assists, cookies they've got rather than taking a hit to make a play and getting run over so we can get a puck out so that your teammates can have a 3-on-2," Backes said. "Or so you can block a shot or kill a penalty when you really need it so we can stay in a game. We just don't have that desperation, that accountability, that responsibility to each other.

"The talking's done. We've said everything that needs to be said, gone over game plans and talked about strategy and ideology. It's time to put the boots on and go do it or else pack your bags and go home because it's slowly slipping, but there's time left where we can right the ship and play our hockey. When we play our hockey, we love our chances against anyone."

Elliott, who slipped to 3-5-1 on the season with a 3.57 goals-against average and .849 save percentage, said he didn't find out until five minutes before the game that he would be in goal.

"It's a little tough," Elliott said. "I usually always prepare the night before and you know going into the pre-game skate what you're going to be facing.

"It's a little tough, but also again, like I've said when you get thrown into the fire, it's better when you're not thinking about it. Just go in there and play."

Carter converted a 2-on-1 play after Blues defenseman Wade Redden got caught in a bad pinch, redirecting Voynov's centering feed past Elliott 8:31 into the game for the lone first-period goal.

Carter struck again, this time, taking Keaton Ellerby's pass and beating Ian Cole to the front and tucking a backhand through Elliott's pads 3:23 into the second for a 2-0 Kings lead.

"Jeff gives us more speed, Carter's been out best player," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We've been trying to get him more open ice."

Drewiske netted his first of the season, a power play goal from the slot with 4:38 to play in the period to make it 3-0.

However, the Blues got one back late when Steen wired a one-timer from the right point past Bernier with 42.5 seconds left in the period, the Blues' League-leading 16th power play goal to make it 3-1. It was the only blemish on Bernier's card.

"I felt pretty good for a guy that's been [out] a long time, since I've played an NHL game," Bernier said. "Just trying to stay focused. That's how it's been all year."

Stoll took a pass from Voynov in the slot and one-timed a shot high over Elliott 3:36 into the third period to restore the Kings' three-goal lead, as the Kings are feeling like they've regained some swagger.

"It's no secret that we've been struggling lately," Carter said. "For us to win games, we're going to have to get going here."

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