Los Angeles find a way to rally past St Louis and find themselves in Round 2, writes Gregg Patton.
NHL play-offs: Los Angeles Kings are not singing the blues just yet
The path to a repeat Stanley Cup title is as bumpy as the ice on a country pond. But the defending champion Los Angeles Kings are still skating, right into Round 2.
Down 0-2 after opening the series with St Louis Blues, the Kings roared back with four consecutive victories to advance.
"That's not easy to do," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter after his team won Game 6 at Los Angeles on Friday night.
"But this team, we always have the mindset, just take care of the next game."
It is an attitude that was honed through their four, winning playoff series a year ago.
"That's how it's supposed to be whatever happens the night before doesn't matter," goaltender Jonathan Quick said.
"It comes from the run we had last year. It's the confidence, knowing if you get down, you can come back."
The Kings also should be buoyed that Quick played the series like the same man voted most valuable player of the 2012 post-season.
Except for a quirky giveaway in overtime that cost the Kings Game 1, the 27-year-old American was a wall in the net.
He gave up a total of 10 goals in six games, plus 20 minutes of overtime a 1.58 goals-against average, and a save percentage of .944.
Both numbers were significantly better than his regular-season numbers (2.45 and .902), partly because he started the season slowly after undergoing off-season back surgery.
There was not much margin for error. All six games were decided by one goal.
The Kings' series-clinching victory was a 2-1 nerve-tester. They scored the game-winner at the end of the second period with 0.2 seconds to spare on the clock.
For veteran Dustin Penner, who scored only two goals all season, it was his second of the play-offs.
The Kings right wing scooped up the puck at centre ice with a few seconds left in the period, skated to the top of the left face-off circle and unloaded a slap shot that ticked off defenceman Roman Polak's stick and eluded Blues goalie Brian Elliott.
"I think there was probably 20 guys and three coaches yelling for me to shoot," said Penner, who wasn't about to get fancy with it.
"I put everything I had into it, all 245.5 pounds."
The Detroit Red Wings were the last team to win the Cup back-to-back, in 1997-98, which does not concern the Kings.
They will take the weekend off and get ready to play either San Jose or Anaheim in Round 2. Either way, Game 1 will be "one game."
"We didn't win four consecutive games," Quick said of the St Louis series. "We won a game, put it out of our minds, and won the next one four times."
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