LA Kings roll home with impressive playoff lead
"It made us a stronger team," Kopitar said of Murray's departure and their season-long offensive struggles. "Mental toughness is a big part of 82 games plus the postseason. We've gone through a lot of stuff this season, and at the end of the day, it matters what the guys in the locker room think."
The Kings took control of Game 2 with an utterly dominant first period, starting with Mike Richards' alert rebound goal just 31 seconds in. Kopitar then scored Los Angeles' fourth short-handed goal of the playoffs, and the Kings added two late goals to take a four-goal lead that flat-lined the playoff emotion in St. Louis' long-suffering crowd.
"It was embarrassing, the work ethic we had as a team, I think," Blues forward T.J. Oshie said. "For our team defense to be that poor, it's embarrassing. ... There were a lot of guys running around. Everyone's working hard, but they're not working hard and using their head at the same time. We've got to work hard but work smart."
The Blues didn't practice Tuesday, taking a day for physical healing and mental resets before boarding a flight to the West Coast. While Los Angeles started the season terribly and finally got itself together, St. Louis was remarkably consistent after coach Ken Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne 13 games in, unexpectedly rising atop the conference standings for a long stretch.
But the downside of that success could be a lack of late-season urgency. St. Louis was the first team to clinch a playoff spot and the first to clinch its division, although it didn't hurt the Blues in their first-round elimination of dangerous San Jose.
The Blues don't blame their weak efforts against Los Angeles on the regular season, but they also realize they can learn a few things from the Kings' desperate approach to the first two games.
"They don't stop coming," Blues captain David Backes said. "They earned their two wins, and it's kind of disappointing that we didn't have more digging in and solidarity as a group to push them back and see what they are made of. We've got other levels we can get to, to hopefully make them earn it more."
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