LA Kings sweep St. Louis, advance to West finals

Associated Press Modified: May 7, 2012 at 3:17 am •  Published: May 7, 2012
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The St. Louis Blues threw everything they had at the Kings in the final two periods of Game 4, desperate and determined to avoid a series sweep. Although Los Angeles bent to an alarming degree, Jonathan Quick never broke.

Even on the Kings' roughest day of a mostly smooth postseason, the surprising eighth seeds charged on to an unlikely berth in the Western Conference finals.

Dustin Brown scored two goals, Quick made 23 saves, and the Kings swept the Blues out of the postseason with a 3-1 victory Sunday, advancing to the conference finals for just the second time in club history.

Quick, the indomitable All-Star goalie emerging as a breakout star, raised his stick and glove in celebration when the final seconds ticked off the Kings' eighth win in nine postseason games. The sellout crowd at Staples Center surprised him with its intensity while celebrating the long-struggling team's best postseason performance in 19 years.

"You heard the rink today, how loud it was," said Quick, who has a .949 save percentage in the postseason. "It means a lot more to (the fans) than it does to us. It's a great deal, a big push, by us to win four in a row against a team like that. They were great all series long ... but you heard the fans, how loud they were the last two minutes there. It gives you goose bumps."

Rookie Jordan Nolan scored an early goal for the Kings, the first No. 8 seed in NHL history to eliminate their conference's top two seeds in the same postseason. The Kings only clinched a playoff berth right before their 81st game, but they've been unstoppable ever since.

"It's a special group, and we knew that all along this season," said Anze Kopitar, who had assists on both of Brown's goals. "Maybe we didn't break out when we would have liked to, but I think we've peaked at the right time, and that's the most important thing."

After eliminating top-seeded Vancouver and second-seeded St. Louis, the Kings are the first team to earn a conference final berth. They'll face the winner of Phoenix's series with Nashville in the Western Conference finals. The Coyotes lead 3-1, with Game 5 in Phoenix on Monday night.

Los Angeles won despite its weakest effort of the postseason in Game 4, clinging to a 2-1 first-period lead while St. Louis dominated most of the final two periods. Perhaps the Kings didn't adapt well to an unusually early start time, but Quick made a handful of big saves before Brown scored his sixth goal of a stellar postseason into an empty net with 25.8 seconds left.

The Kings made their only previous trip to the conference finals in 1993, when Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille propelled Los Angeles past Toronto and into their only Stanley Cup finals, a loss to Montreal. The Kings won just one playoff series in the ensuing 17 seasons before routing the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks in five first-round games last month.

"I can only imagine how happy Kings fans are right now," said Brown, who has never played for another organization. "They've been through a rough stretch, and to win on home ice, that's huge for everyone in this room. It's nice to see the fans get jacked up as much as they could. They haven't an opportunity to celebrate like that at home."

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