Shortly after the Los Angeles Kings gave up their eighth consecutive goal to St. Louis over the last two games, the defending Stanley Cup champions finally gathered themselves and answered back.
Martin Brodeur and the Blues were overwhelmed by the response.
Anze Kopitar had a career-high five points, Jake Muzzin scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 11:02 to play, and the Kings rallied from an early three-goal deficit for a 6-4 victory Thursday night.
"Some teams would probably pack it in after the 3-0 (deficit), but not this team," said Kopitar, who had a goal and four assists. "We have a lot of character. We have a lot of guys that care about each other and like playing for each other."
Marian Gaborik had two goals and an assist, while Jeff Carter had a goal and three assists as the champs avenged a 5-2 loss in St. Louis on Tuesday with just their second win in seven games.
The Kings limped home from a 1-3-1 road trip and played an ugly first period — but just as they’ve done in the last three postseasons, they remained masters of raising their game when absolutely necessary.
"There was no question we thought we could come back," Gaborik said. "We thought we had a chance always. It feels like the playoffs — two big, heavy-duty teams playing each other like that."
Dwight King also scored from mid-ice with 7:54 left on a bizarre bounce over Brodeur, capping a rough third start for St. Louis by the NHL’s career victories leader.
David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin and Kevin Shattenkirk scored in a 2:48 span of the first period for the Blues, whose five-game winning streak ended. Jori Lehtera also scored for St. Louis, which hadn’t allowed more than four goals in a game this season.
"We were careless at times, and that’s a big part of it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We did a really poor job of managing the puck as the game went on, so we turned it into a track meet."
After Carter tied it with his first goal in 14 games, Muzzin put the Kings ahead with a wicked wrist shot just underneath Brodeur’s crossbar. King then padded the lead with a dump-in shot that inexplicably leaped over Brodeur’s shoulder.
"I knew it was going to be a bad bounce, so I wanted to cover the low part of the net," Brodeur said. "But I didn’t expect that thing to go right over my head. It was almost like a lacrosse ball. It kind of gained speed on the second bounce. It never happened to me before."
Brodeur returned to St. Louis’ net for the first time since Dec. 8, facing Jonathan Quick in a matchup of two goalies with a combined five Stanley Cup championships, six Jennings Trophies, four Vezina Trophies, three Olympic medals, a Conn Smythe Trophy and 158 NHL playoff victories.
Brodeur and Quick both were shredded, yet each also made a handful of highlight-reel saves in the third period of a wide-open game.
Quick made 24 saves, and Brodeur stopped 31 shots.
St. Louis swiftly seized a 3-0 lead starting with Backes’ adroit deflection on a power play for his eighth goal.
"It was good and bad to get that lead," Brodeur said. "I think when you come in from a long road trip like the Kings did, they took their medicine. But then they really picked up their game, played physical and created a lot of offense."
Kopitar scored just his second goal in 15 games on a setup from Gaborik, who tied it later in the second period with his second power-play rebound goal — his fifth goal in three games.
St. Louis went back ahead just 36 seconds later when Lehtera flipped a soft backhand past Quick for just his first goal in 15 games since Nov. 15.
NOTES: Kopitar’s five points exceeded his total from the previous 13 games combined. … Blues F Jaden Schwartz missed his first game of the season. He apparently injured his right foot Tuesday. … Kings D Robyn Regehr left in the second period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. … Jaskin’s goal was his second of the season in the Russian’s first game since returning from a 16-game stint in the minors.