LOS ANGELES • It never rains in Southern California, and it stays pretty cheery in the Staples Center this hockey season, as well.
The Blues brought lots of momentum with them to LA on Saturday, and it showed. Much like the first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinals, Game 3 could have gone either way. But when they play at home in 2013, things tend to go the Kings’ way.
The Black and White were 19-4-1 at home during the regular season, best in the NHL. They’re now 20-4-1.
The La-La Landlubbers haven’t lost in their building since dropping a 2-0 decision to Dallas on March 23. No question about it, these Kings are home bodies, particularly on the heels of winning the Stanley Cup last season.
“I think the crowd has been amazing all season,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “Ever since we won the Cup last year, it seems like there are more and more people coming to the games, instead of just that core group.
“The crowd is louder and louder and we use that energy from the crowd to play our game. I think that’s going to be the most important thing. ... We have to use all that energy to burst out and do what they did to us in St. Louis.”
The Blues have not won at Staples Center since the 2010-11 season and, playoffs included, are 0-5-1 over that period of time. The Note saw what a little LA energy can do in their only regular-season visit this season.
They carried a 4-1 lead deep into the game before giving up a goal late in the second period. All of a sudden, the Kings ruled and LA Law produced four unanswered goals and a 6-4 Blues’ loss. Such offensive opulence is not about to happen in this series, where the goals have come few and far between. The teams have now combined for six regulation goals in three meetings.
For the second game in succession, the Kings struck first. In the midst of a prolonged scrum in front of the Blues net, the puck squeezed loose to Slava Voynov. He threaded it through the mass of bodies in front of goaltender Brian Elliot and into the Blues’ net.
It was the first 5-on-5 goal of the series for the Kings. It was ugly and it was just what they were looking for.
“I thought Game 2 we had more chances for those ugly goals,” forward Kyle Clifford said. “They were there, they just didn’t go in. Those can be a kick-start sometimes, so our mindset is to just keep throwing pucks at (Elliott), keep driving to the net and making it hard on their defensemen.”
As it turned out, a kick-start was all it took for a 1-0 win. With netminder Jonathan Quick up to his usual tricks, foiling several golden chances for the Blues, with the Blues misfiring on several others, the defending Stanley Cup champions served notice. This is a different series in Disneyland.
“It’s such a different game in this building, with the smaller ice surface here,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock was speaking from an engineering standpoint, pointing out that the corners at Staples Center appear to have a more sweeping swerve. But he could have been talking about the atmosphere, as well. The hockey crowd in LA, more than 18,000 strong on Saturday night, has nothing in common with its baseball cousin. These folks get loud.
Perhaps more importantly, all the Hollywood distractions notwithstanding, the Kings get focused.
“It’s always fun playing here at Staples, especially at this time of year,” forward Dustin Brown added. “The fans go to another level, and you definitely can get a little boost of energy, especially off the start off the atmosphere. It’s important for us to use that.”
The series will resume at Staples Center on Monday evening. If the Blues are to regain command, they’re going to have to find a “boost” buster.