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Richards leads Kings to rare St. Louis win, 3-2

by Louie Korac
ST. LOUIS -- After a summer in which a lot of pressure was placed upon him in a hockey-crazed Philadelphia market, Mike Richards had some adjusting to do after being traded across the country to the Los Angeles Kings.

It seems the Kings' talented center is finding his niche quite nicely.

Richards continued his goal-scoring streak -- he now has five in four games – and in the process, helped the Kings prevail in a place in which they typically fall short.

Richards scored a goal in the third period and assisted on another, as the Kings slipped past St. Louis 3-2 Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.

Richards, who now has nine goals and 18 points in 21 games, gives the Kings (11-7-3) a solid one-two punch with Anze Kopitar down the middle.

"It's nice to help the team have success," said Richards, who also won 15 of 16 faceoffs in the game.

"I think trying to get adjusted to the new team, and sometimes I think you try to make too many plays when things like that happen," Richards added. "But I'm just trying to get the puck in the net as much as possible, and I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable with linemates, and just getting pucks to the net as much as possible is the biggest thing."

Kopitar scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season, Willie Mitchell netted the game-winner and Jonathan Bernier -- making only his fourth start of the season -- stopped 23 shots as the Kings won for only the third time in 11 games in St. Louis.

"It was a difficult game," said Kings coach Terry Murray. "St. Louis came out in the first period and they were putting on a lot of pressure on the puck over top of us. It ended up being a pretty exciting hockey game."


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Alex Steen and Vladimir Sobotka scored for the Blues (10-8-2), who lost for only the second time in regulation in 10 home games. Jaroslav Halak stopped 25 shots in the loss.

"We had plenty of chances, second chances to bury some pucks ... their goalie made some good saves," Blues captain David Backes said. "We start a parade to the penalty box against their team and eventually they score one. Good penalty kills are 85-90 percent and we might have had eight penalties today -- and they're bound to get one."

Added Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who said he was disappointed with the end result: "I think the last two games in the last two periods, we've probably come off it a little bit in the third period. We've kind of been the team making a few mistakes. We've made a couple errors in our own end that have ended up in our net or ended up us taking a penalty to give the momentum back to the (opposing) team.

"It's a frustrating loss for the players to battle back like we did and give it up so quickly. It's a tough loss."

Mitchell's first goal of the season came less than two minutes after Sobotka tied the game for the Blues, as his shot from the left point got through Scott Nichol’s attempted block and beat Halak on the near side with 5:49 to play.

"It was big -- and his first of the season -- and I think he's been waiting for that one for a while," Kings captain Dustin Brown said of Mitchell's goal. "It's really nice to get it at this time."

Sobotka tied the game on a one-timer, beating Bernier with 7:32 to play after taking Matt D'Agostini's pass and one-timing from 10 feet.

"That last power play was very, very effective," Hitchcock said. "I think it gave us momentum leading up to (Sobotka's) goal. But when you're scoring two goals a game, you're living on a fine line. We've been on the right side of it for the most part. But we're going to have to extend ourselves a little bit better if we expect to win."

Blues defenseman Barret Jackman has been rock-solid playing with a young Blues' defensive core, but two costly and uncharacteristic turnovers by the veteran led to the first Kings' goals.

"The first one on the PK, I just made a bad read with good players on the ice," Jackman said. "I thought the play was in the middle, but obviously it wasn't and they jumped on it and scored.

"The second one, the puck just bounced over my stick. It was going the wrong way and I couldn't recover."

The Blues wasted little time grabbing a 1-0 lead, as Steen netted his team-leading eighth of the season off a solid give-and-go play with T.J. Oshie, who now has nine points in nine games. Steen snapped the return pass between Bernier's pads 1:07 into the game.

In five games, the Steen, Oshie and Backes line has produced 13 points.
Minutes later, defenseman Roman Polak helped prevent LA's Dustin Brown from going in on an uncontested breakaway that could have netted the tying goal. Brown had a step on him, but Polak recovered nicely and tied the Kings' captain up well, preventing him from getting off a quality shot.

A lazy turnover by the Blues’ Jackman led to the Kings' tying goal, as Kopitar finished off Mike Richards' pass 7:36 into the second on LA's second power play. Jackman tried taking a backhand through the middle of the ice from the right corner, but had his pass picked off by Richards. Kopitar easily redirected Richards’ give past Halak.

The Blues' Patrik Berglund, who is in a goal-scoring funk with only one goal in 10 games coming in, was thwarted twice in the second period by Bernier.

First, Berglund stripped a puck at the blue line early and created 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway with Sobotka. But Berglund couldn't finish, as Bernier stepped in with a shoulder stop. Berglund also saw Bernier rob him in the slot on a backhand shot after taking Sobotka's saucer feed later in the period.

Richards broke a 1-all tie in the third when Andrei Loktionov picked off another Jackman puck and found Richards in the slot. He beat Halak cleanly 4:41 into the period to give the Kings a 2-1 lead. Richards now has five goals in four straight games and seven points in six games.

"Mike Richards played very well," Murray said. "Nice play there by (Andrei) Loktionov. He ends up knocking the puck down and makes the play, but Richards has been very hot and playing very well. He's starting to feel comfortable in LA and we’re excited about that."
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