LOS ANGELES -- It's a series now, and the St. Louis Blues leave Staples Center searching for a way to recapture the momentum they brought with them to the West Coast.
The Los Angeles Kings have it after a come-from-behind 4-3 win in Game 4 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal. With the series now tied 2-2, the Kings have momentum, and the Blues were left wondering where things went wrong after jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead Monday night.
"It's been like, 'Who's got control of anything right now?'" Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They got momentum off the game today. I don't think they got momentum off of Game 3. We probably deserved a better fate in (Game) 3, but they took the game today. They were better than we were. They won a lot of puck battles that we'd been winning before. They dialed it up. There's another level out there. It's our job now to answer the level."
The Kings were, as Hitchcock pointed out, "dialed in" after David Backes and T.J. Oshie spotted the Blues a 2-0 lead just 4:32 into the game. It was the first time in the four games that either team led by two goals, but as defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said, the Blues felt like they could slide the gear into cruise control.
Not against the defending champs.
"You want a two-goal lead any playoff game you can get it," said Shattenkirk, who assisted on Oshie's power play goal. "We did a great job of coming out. I think we just took our foot off the gas a little bit. I think we maybe just thought it was going to come a little easier for the rest of the game. With an experienced team like that, they're not going to quit. They're able to get two goals, it's a long game and we just have to keep that pressure on at that point."
It was almost as if the Blues, who had four goals in three games in the series, got the lead too easily.
"No, of course we knew it was going to be a tough game going in," defenseman Jordan Leopold said. "We got two off the bat, which was huge. You get that lead and you want to keep pressing, but you've got to give them credit. They played hard and found a way to get back, found a way to win a hockey game."
The Blues still maintained a 3-2 edge heading into the third period, and they knew if they could win the final 20 minutes, they'd head home with a commanding lead in this best-of-7 series.
"That was tough," Shattenkirk said. "We knew they were going to come. We have to be much better there. We have to be able to respond to it. If we want to grow as a playoff team and be successful in the future here, those are the situations that we have to start bearing down, especially as a team that's been through it before, we have to know that that's coming.
"The series is back to a tie. We go back home and start over. It's just a matter of resetting and getting back to the way we were playing."
It now becomes a best-of-3 series, and the Blues have the home-ice edge. They need to grab it back with the surging Kings feeling confident again.
"We got home ice, we've earned it," Hitchcock said. "It's a best-of-3 now. We'll see where it goes. It's been very intense, hard hockey. They went up in a gear today that we're going to have to find an answer for."