Toffoli's two goals propel Kings past Blues

Dennis Bernstein, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Picking up where they left off last spring, the Los Angeles Kings extended their mastery of the St. Louis Blues on Monday.
In a game that resembled most of the recent battles between the two Western Conference heavyweights, winger Tyler Toffoli scored two goals and center Mike Richards added two assists as the Kings defeated the Blues 3-2 at Staples Center.
The tight-checking affair produced only 50 shots, but the physical play both are known for resulted in 83 combined hits, 52 of them registered by Los Angeles. Although Kings center Anze Kopitar was held without a point, he registered a season-high seven hits, an unusually high amount for the skilled forward.
The Kings led 3-0 after two periods, then held off the Blues' third-period comeback attempt.
Toffoli saw his minutes reduced by coach Darryl Sutter over the previous few games, and he realized that he needed to raise the level of his game to earn more playing time.
"I don't think the coach is too worried about me scoring goals," Toffoli said. "I think he realizes that my game had slipped and I wasn't working as hard as I should have been."
Kings defensemen Jake Muzzin noted that the similarities between the two teams heightened the importance of playing well Monday. The game was the first meeting of the season between teams that faced off in the opening round of last season's playoffs, a series the Kings won 4-2.
"Home ice is important," Muzzin said. "We've got to create a better identity for ourselves at home, play a little stronger, win more games at home and make it a tough building for teams to come in and play. Tonight was a good test for us, and we answered."
Toffoli registered his second multi-goal game of the season for Los Angeles (17-7-4).
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and right winger Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the Blues, who dropped their fifth straight regular-season game at Staples Center. Coupled with their defeat against the Sharks in San Jose on Saturday, the Blues (18-5-3) lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season.
Although the Blues are near the top of the standings, they admit there is plenty room for improvement.
"Our game isn't there yet," Shattenkirk said. "We really have to look in the mirror when teams go up 3-0 or 4-0 on us."
As was the case in the San Jose loss, a bad first period on sealed St. Louis' fate.
"I think it's a mindset in general, whether you're at home or on the road, we have to bring our best game and let's build that lead like we have done in a few instances," said center David Backes, the Blues' captain. "Saturday wasn't enough of a lesson, maybe this one will be. There have been a lot of discussions this season on how we start games."
Los Angeles goalie Ben Scrivens stopped 25 shots while improving to 7-2-4. Scrivens likely will start his 11th consecutive game Tuesday night on the road against the Anaheim Ducks as he continues to producing solid performances in the absence of regular goalie Jonathan Quick.
Kings center Jarret Stoll opened the scoring with a wrist shot from 40 feet that beat screened Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Winger Justin Williams and defenseman Robyn Regher assisted on Stoll's third marker of the season at 10:38 of the opening frame.
Toffoli's first goal of the night helped Los Angeles double its lead at 16:13 of the opening frame. Defenseman Drew Doughty's initial shot from the point hit the crossbar and ricocheted to Toffoli, who wristed a shot past Halak for his fifth goal of the season. Richards was credited with the secondary assist.
Toffoli struck again to give the Kings a 3-0 lead at 5:48 of the second period. Defenseman Willie Mitchell's shot from the left point deflected off Richards and landed in the slot, where Toffoli wasted no time in beating a defenseless Halak.
The Kings almost expanded the lead to four midway through the second period, but winger Jeff Carter's wrist shot hit the right post.
St. Louis attempted a late third-period rally after a penalty to Kings center Colin Fraser expired. Tarasenko fed Shattenkirk for the latter's second goal of the season at 14:06 of the final period. Center Jaden Schwartz also picked up an assist.
With Halak pulled for an extra skater, the Blues narrowed the score to 3-2 with 15.5 seconds left. Tarasenko deflected a Shattenkirk point shot past Scrivens for his ninth goal of the season.
Halak finished with 20 saves.
NOTES: D Ian Cole and LW Magnus Paajarvi did not dress for St. Louis. ... Blues C David Backes played in his 520th game in a St. Louis uniform, passing current University of Michigan coach Red Berenson for 12th place in franchise history. ... D Kevin Shattenkirk earned his 100th point as a Blue with his third-period goal. ... The Kings did not surrender a first-period goal for the seventh consecutive home game. ... Los Angeles extended its home sellout streak to a franchise-record 83 games. The run dates back to Dec. 3, 2011. ... The Kings scratched LW Daniel Carcillo, C Linden Vey and LW Tanner Pearson.

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