LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles Kings brought out the best in the St. Louis Blues this season.
Not many other teams did.
Jaroslav Halak stopped 17 shots for his 14th NHL shutout, Matt D'Agostini had his third two-goal game in the NHL and the Blues beat the Kings 4-0 Thursday night, sweeping Los Angeles in four meetings this season.
The Blues, 10 points behind eighth-place Calgary, are likely to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years since their streak of 25 consecutive postseason appearances ended.
``I think St. Louis is incredibly tough to play against through the neutral zone,' Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. ``Every time we were trying to get it to the forwards in a spot where maybe they could create on the rush, they always seemed to have a guy right next to the person we were trying to go to.'
Coming off a 4-0 road trip in which they allowed only seven goals, the Kings began a five-game homestand with their seventh straight loss against St. Louis. Their shot total was the lowest by a Blues opponent since the second game of the season, when St. Louis outshot Anaheim 53-14 in a 5-1 home victory.
``From a standpoint of executing and the details of the game - making sure the puck is in the right spot, making sure we kept things to the outside, blocked shots and got in the right spots with the sticks and the passing lanes so that we created our own opportunities to attack from defensive play - that was something we talked about,' coach Davis Payne said. ``Knowing that we're playing a very skilled hockey team is important, too.'
The Kings, who tied their previous season low for shots with 18 on Tuesday in a 4-2 win at Nashville, were outshot 24-3 through the first 31 minutes in front of a frustrated sellout crowd that saw them get shut out for the third time at home and sixth time overall this season.
They were booed off the ice at the end of the second period after Jonathan Quick gave up D'Agostini's second goal with 6.9 seconds on the clock, giving St. Louis a 2-0 lead. That did not sit well with coach Terry Murray, who on Tuesday became the first coach to guide the Kings to consecutive 40-win seasons.
``You know what the most disappointing and frustrating thing was? When we were booed off the ice by our fans,' Murray said. ``That is the most embarrassing thing - the worst thing I've ever been through in all the years I've been coaching. I've been behind the bench for almost 3,000 hockey games in the NHL. And to be booed off the ice like that by your own fans after what we've been through in that road trip - going 4-0 in some hard places - it's very disappointing.'
The loss dropped the Kings from fourth to fifth in the tight Western Conference.
``St. Louis may be on the last gasp of their playoff lives, but it was two important points to us and we didn't get anything out of it,' Scuderi said.
Quick made 35 saves, but was beaten on a long slap shot by Alex Pietrangelo from just inside the red line with 14:51 left in the game. Pietrangelo also set up a goal by T.J. Oshie with 7:21 remaining.
Quick had to be sharp to prevent a fluky scoring chance by Oshie during the final seconds of a power play with 10 1/2 minutes left in the second period. One of Oshie's teammates flipped the puck into the zone, and Quick anticipated a bounce that never materialized. Instead, it sat in front of him and Oshie swept in to get it before Quick robbed him with a sprawling save.
``Quickie made in the first period probably about 10 saves he shouldn't have so it could have been a lot worse than it was,' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``Tonight we just didn't show up, so you're not going to beat any team in this league regardless whether they're good or not.'
D'Agostini's second goal gave him seven for the season and four in his last four games. He was trailing the play when he got a drop pass from Andy McDonald just outside the right circle and put a 20-foot wrist shot just over Quick's glove from a sharp angle to the right of the net as Quick neglected to hug the post.
Notes: The only other time St. Louis has swept Los Angeles in a season series was 2005-06 (4-0). The Blues and Kings were among six franchises that entered the NHL in the 1967-68 expansion. ... The shutout was the fifth this season for Halak, who came in 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average in his four previous games against the Kings. Backup Ty Conklin is 6-1-0 with a 2.50 GGA in seven career starts against Los Angeles. ... St. Louis was 0 for 3 on the power play. The Kings have not been scored upon in their last 26 short-handed situations and 54 of their last 58.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved