LOS ANGELES • It was a big moment in the game and, who knows, maybe it will be a watershed moment in Kevin Shattenkirk's career.
With less than nine minutes remaining in the first period on Sunday and the Blues trailing Los Angeles 1-0, Shattenkirk caught the puck at the opposing blue line and caught the Kings in an awkward line change. The righthanded shooter ventured into the O-zone layer, took the measure of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and blasted a slap shot over his right pad to tie the score at 1-1.
That's the Kevin Shattenkirk Blues fans all know and love. That's the Kevin Shattenkirk who had nine goals and 43 points during the regular season. That's the Kevin Shattenkirk who had been missing throughout much of the postseason.
"I had a little room to skate with it, and they were all changing," Shattenkirk said. "I knew he was going to come out and challenge it. So I kind of just buried my head and shot far side. I kind of like that spot right over the pads, so that's kind of what I was shooting for.
"I think for me it was kind of a confidence booster. And I thought we kind of answered the bell and played a good game from there on."
The goal was the first of Shattenkirk's playoff career, the first playoff goal by a Blues defenseman since Chris Pronger lit a lamp in April 2003. The goal also gave the Blues life, nudged them toward the game they were hoping to play throughout the series.
They played that game for much of the afternoon, outshooting the Kings 24-19, certainly out-chancing them. The Blues hit two goalposts and had a few other close calls around Quick as they tried to bring the series back to St. Louis.
"Bounces didn't go our way," Shattenkirk said. "We worked hard for them, worked to try to get those bounces. But they just didn't seem to go our way."
The effort on Sunday wasn't enough to prevent a frustrating 3-1 loss that bounced the Blues from the playoffs and booted them into the offseason. But for a 23-year-old defenseman who has a lot of career ahead of him, who figures to be an important part of playoff efforts to come, it was a step forward instead of back.
Shattenkirk is a smooth skater who ran into choppy ice this spring. His twosome, which included veteran partner Barret Jackman, was chasing shadows quite a bit. Shattenkirk looked out of sync and out of answers at times.
Big and fast, the Kings used their size to lean on No. 22, who is relatively small in the backfield at 5 feet 11, 200 pounds. They homed in on the elusive Shattenkirk's tendencies and harassed him at every turn. Good players get that kind of attention.
When you get knocked around physically, you tend to look over your shoulder more often; you think before you act. Shattenkirk finished the postseason with just two points in nine games and a minus-3 rating. He was a plus-20 during the regular schedule.
An unpretentious young man, Shattenkirk is not delusional about his play or overly sensitive to criticism. He would be the first to tell you he was skating uphill during much of this postseason.
But he played more than 23 minutes Sunday. For the most part he was solid defensively, good with the puck, aggressive at both ends. He made the little plays that he made all season, and he contributed a big moment with his game-tying goal. He came out of the swamp.
"I think the most important thing that I learned today was fighting through it, finding the level you need to play at in order to be successful this time of year," said Shattenkirk, who came to the Blues with Chris Stewart in the Erik Johnson trade late last season. "I didn't bring it much before, but it's definitely a learning experience."
That's the Kevin Shattenkirk the Blues hope to have for many more playoff experiences.