Darcy Kuemper got the feeling that this was more than an early December game when he and his teammates showed up for their rematch with the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues beat the Kings at their own game a month ago here, in a hyped contest between premier Western Conference teams, and that lingered into Friday.
“You could tell when we got to the rink, it was on guys’ minds, guys were talking about it,” Kuemper said. “You never want to lose to a team twice in a row, and we were really aware of that tonight.”
For the second straight night, the Kings limited an imposing team with a potent top line, on the road, with quality goaltending. Their 4-1 win at Scottrade Center avenged their Oct. 30 loss, thus the tune “Takin’ Care of Business” blared through the speakers in their locker room.
“I think we all expected them to come out like they did last time, so we were ready for it,” Tyler Toffoli said.
Toffoli bookended the win with the first and fourth goals and Kuemper made a season-high 39 saves. Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe also scored as the Kings threw their four-game trip into overdrive at 3-0.
They needed Kuemper to spell Jonathan Quick against arguably the hottest line in the NHL in Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. Kuemper’s one goal allowed (to Patrik Berglund) came on the power play.
Kuemper is 4-0-2, a sparkling record for a backup goalie in a tricky spot role behind Quick as Quick follows an injury-shortened season.
“It’s important [because] I think we’ve seen in the past with what’s happened here before,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “You get production from your backup goalie, and that’s exactly what we were hoping for. You look at Darcy — he came here [as a free agent]. I think he was excited for the opportunity. That’s a big responsibility for a backup.”
Toffoli and Kopitar gave him support early. In the first two minutes into the game, Toffoli took a backhand pass from Nick Shore, sped down left wing and got Blues goalie Carter Hutton to open up his pads to slip the puck underneath him. Kopitar made the score 2-0 when he whacked in a rebound left by Hutton on Alex Iafallo’s shot.
Toffoli’s second goal at 10:54 of the third period made some of the 18,322 fans exit into the brisk fall air. Kempe’s goal to make it 3-1 already took the air out of the building as he wristed the puck between Joel Edmundson’s legs from above the right circle.
“That’s a hard shot for the goalies, and sometimes it works out,” Kempe said.
Kempe and linemates Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis were matched up against the Schenn line and held them scoreless. Schenn, chosen by the Kings fifth in the 2009 draft, scored 19 points in 12 games in November. The Blues were fifth in the NHL in scoring, so to shut them down was a message, one night after a win against the Washington Capitals.
“I think that’s huge,” Kempe said. “We knew coming in here, it was going to be a tough game. After last time we were here, we really wanted bounce back and get a win here. I think everybody was very excited before the game. I think we did a solid job.”
Torrey Mitchell obtained his work visa and is expected to join the Kings in Chicago, a team official said. … General manager Rob Blake will be a 2018 inductee into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame.