LOS ANGELES — Dustin Penner could have simply dumped the puck and allowed the clock to run out on the second period of yet another dead-even game.
Instead, he ripped a long slap shot at the net, and it ramped off a St. Louis stick and flew past Brian Elliott right before the buzzer sounded.
“You might as well try,” Penner said with a shrug. “You never know if you don’t throw it on net.”
That’s the type of positive thinking that made the Los Angeles Kings into champions, and that’s why they finally got rid of the Blues after a bruising first round of their title defense.
Penner scored the tiebreaking goal in the final second of the second period, and the Kings advanced with their fourth straight victory over the Blues, 2-1 in Game 6 on Friday night.
Jonathan Quick made 21 saves and Drew Doughty scored his first goal of the postseason for the reigning Stanley Cup winners, who won four straight to finish off fourth-seeded St. Louis.
The Blues seemed poised to head into the final minutes with ample momentum after Chris Stewart’s tying goal early in a period dominated by St. Louis. Instead, Penner heeded his teammates’ instructions to shoot from just inside the blue line — and his rocket of a shot glanced off St. Louis defenseman Roman Polak’s stick blade and beat Elliott for his second goal of the playoffs.
“I was trying to look at the clock, to see if it counted,” Kings center Mike Richards said. “It all happened pretty quick. That’s a great feeling.”
The clock ran out while Penner’s slap shot rattled around in Elliott’s net, but video replay confirmed the puck entered the net in plenty of time. The goal — officially with 0.2 seconds left — entered Kings lore alongside Penner’s winning overtime score to end last season’s Western Conference finals in Phoenix.
“When the game means a lot more, it’s definitely a lot more fun to play,” said Penner, who spent part of the season in coach Darryl Sutter’s doghouse as a healthy scratch. “These types of games bring out the best in this team.”
Indeed, the Kings held up well under enormous pressure from the hungry Blues: Every game in this bitter, physical series was decided by one goal, and Quick allowed just 10 goals in the six-game series. The Blues won the first two at home, but the Kings responded with four straight gritty victories, winning a playoff series after trailing 0-2 for just the second time in franchise history.
Elliott stopped 14 shots for the Blues, who were eliminated by Los Angeles for the second straight season, this time despite taking a 2-0 series lead. St. Louis physically beat up the Kings, who responded with hard-nosed play of their own, but Quick outplayed Elliott by a minor margin.
“What I’m going to tell them is it’s not good enough,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “If you want to be a champion, it’s not good enough. You can’t allow the goalie to outwork you. If you want to be a champion, you’re going to have to find a way. … We took everything to the beach, but we didn’t finish putting it in the water.”
Los Angeles has won 10 straight games at Staples Center since March, and its sellout crowd waved white towels and roared as the Kings became the first Stanley Cup champion in three years to advance to the second round.
The defending champs won’t know who they’ll face next until Anaheim and Detroit finish their series Sunday night. If the second-seeded Ducks win, Southern California’s two NHL teams will meet in the playoffs for the first time.
The Blues seriously tested the Kings, whose title defense already has been tougher than last season’s championship run in one respect. That eighth-seeded club roared to a 3-0 series lead in all four matchups and beat the Western Conference’s top three seeds during a 16-4 rampage through the postseason.
The difference yet again was Quick, who showed off his Conn Smythe Trophy form while stopping every shot in the third period. He stopped 167 of 177 shots in the series (.944 save percentage).
“We hit a few posts, and left a couple sitting right there in the crease,” Blues captain David Backes said. “It’s beginning to be a broken record. We didn’t get the job done. We were up 2-0, and to lose four straight, it’s pretty sour right now.”
The Kings went ahead with 7½ minutes left in the first period of Game 6 when Colin Fraser made a drop pass to Doughty. He froze Polak with a faked slap shot before firing a nasty wrist shot past Elliott.
Doughty, another playoff standout last year, hadn’t scored a goal in the series despite logging more than 29½ minutes per game. Doughty plays nearly seven more minutes per game than any other Los Angeles player.
St. Louis responded with appropriate desperation, pressing the Kings and barely missing a goal when Chris Stewart ripped a shot off Quick’s post late in the first period. The Blues equalized early in the third when Polak’s long slap shot deflected off Porter’s body and sneaked inside Quick’s far post. Porter, who turns 29 later this month, made his NHL playoff debut in Game 1.
The Kings played solid defense in the third until midway through the period, when Patrik Berglund jumped on a turnover and skated in alone for two chances. Quick stopped the first, and the second sailed above the crease.
St. Louis wasn’t whistled for a penalty in Game 6 until 9:32 remained. The Blues pressed the attack in the final minutes, but Quick had little serious trouble.
“There wasn’t much ebb and flow to the series,” Sutter said. “It was so close. It was always one goal. It was always a shift-to-shift competition the whole way.”
Maple Leafs 2, Bruins 1
BOSTON — Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur scored and James Reimer stopped 43 shots to help Toronto stay alive in the first-round playoff series.
Game 6 is Sunday in Toronto, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Monday, if necessary.
Boston has won both games in Toronto in the series and has not lost on the Leafs’ home ice in the playoffs since 1959.
Zdeno Chara scored for Boston to cut the deficit to it 2-1 with 8:48 left. The Leafs killed off a delay-of-game penalty in the last four minutes and then protected the lead when the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask for an extra attacker with 1:11 left.
Rask made 31 saves.
Only once in their history have the Leafs come back to win a playoff series after falling behind 3-1: In the 1942 Stanley Cup finals, when Toronto won four straight to take the title after losing the first three games against Detroit. The Bruins are 15-2 in playoff series after taking a 3-1 lead, but they blew a 3-0 lead against Philadelphia in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.
Capitals 2, Rangers 1, OT
WASHINGTON — Mike Ribeiro scored 9:24 into overtime, and the Capitals regained the momentum — and the lead — in their first-round playoff series.
Ribeiro put in the puck after Troy Brouwer deflected a shot from the blue line.
The Capitals lead the series 3-2. Game 6 is Sunday in New York.
The home team has won every game in the series, with Washington taking the first two and New York pulling even in Games 3 and 4. The Capitals have been fighting history along the way: The franchise has lost eight playoff series in which it has held a two-game lead.
Brian Boyle scored for New York in the first minute, but that was it for New York’s offense. Joel Ward tied it in the second period.
Red Wings 4, Ducks 3, OT
DETROIT — Henrik Zetterberg scored his second goal 1:04 into overtime, forcing a Game 7.
Detroit blew a two-goal lead in the last 3½ minutes of the third period, sending the team to a fourth OT in a series for the first time in franchise history.
Emerson Etem and Bobby Ryan scored 51 seconds apart late in regulation to pull the Ducks into a 3-3 tie.
Zetterberg, who scored a go-ahead goal 6:19 into the third period, had a shot to win it with about a minute left. But his shot hit the right post and slid across the crease.
Second-seeded Anaheim will host seventh-seeded Detroit on Sunday night in the deciding game.