ST. LOUIS — This was what was supposed to happen when the mind of Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi started drifting east and thinking about a certain Philadelphia Flyers center named Mike Richards and how he might look with the Kings.
Nights like Monday.
Nights when Richards administered the first body blow against the St. Louis Blues, scoring in the opening 31 seconds, and pulled his teammates along with him and later stood up for linemate Dustin Penner. It was a virtuoso performance in a night filled with many standout moments as the Kings pounded the Blues with a four-goal, first-period outburst to defeat St. Louis, 5-2, in a fight-filled Game 2, which was their fifth straight road playoff victory this spring.
Leading the way on the scoresheet for the Kings were captain Dustin Brown and center Anze Kopitar, who combined for five points. Kopitar scored twice, including a dazzling short-handed goal at 14:16 of the first period to make it 2-0.
Brown had three assists, including one on the short-handed effort, meaning he has been involved in all four of the Kings’ short-handed goals in this playoff run.
The other Kings’ goals came from Jeff Carter and Justin Williams. Penner had two assists, giving him four points in this series. Scoring for St. Louis were Andy McDonald andMatt D’Agostini.
Two games. Two road wins. Two victories against a heavily favored opponent.
Didn’t this just happen?
The Kings simply hit the replay button at Scottrade Center. This win gave them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals, a repeat of what unfolded in the first round against the Canucks when they won the first two games at Vancouver.
But this wasn’t supposed to happen to the Blues, not in this place, considering they set a franchise record during the regular season with 30 wins at home. Not against the clamp-down, defense-minded Blues and their goalie Brian Elliott, who had league-leading, goals-against average of 1.62 in the regular season.
St. Louis was without star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was injured late in the second period of Game 1. The Blues had been cautiously optimistic he would return for Game 2 after he took part in the morning skate.
Seven goals between the Kings and Blues in one game? Some were expecting only seven goals to be scored the entire series. Maybe ...
The last time the Kings scored four goals in a period during the playoffs was May 7, 1993, against Vancouver when they scored five goals. That playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals had a feel of destiny.
This one? How about Dustin-y?
“I don’t think you can ask for a better first period,” said Penner.
Said Brown: “We didn’t let off the gas at all.”
Undoubtedly, Richards wouldn’t allow that to happen. Lombardi traded for him in the summer and expected him to bring along his resume — an Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup playoff experience — and intensely quiet attitude.
But it wasn’t easy. Richards suffered a concussion and missed most of December. He touched on some of those tough times when he was asked about Penner, the target of fan ire almost from the moment Penner arrived in Los Angeles last season.
“He was like me, I guess, this year. Up and down. We really couldn’t find some consistency,” said Richards, who also had an assist in Game 2. “Probably the last month of the season he’s started to play more consistent. He’s such a big body.
“He’s hard to move. When he protects the puck, there’s no one in the league that can take the puck from him. The first goal was him playing hard, getting the puck to the net and using his big body to cause havoc.”
The line of Penner-Richards-Carter has been together since the start of the St. Louis series and they were a grouping late in Game 5 against Vancouver.
Penner talked about the intensity of Richards, and how his attitude carries over to his teammates.
“You can see the way he plays,” Penner said. “You just don’t get an inch with him. ... Especially his linemates, especially when you are out there seeing the way he works. Every shift.
“You have to pick up your socks. Get down and get dirty.”