Last-minute goal has defending-champion L.A. Kings on ropes

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It was another stunning ending to what is turning into a stunning series.

The St. Louis Blues have used two storybook endings to put the defending Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings on the rack.

On the heels of a win Tuesday when the Blues won in overtime after giving up a last minute goal, they scored a winner in the last minute of Game 2 off the stick of an offensively-challenged defenceman.

Barret Jackman whipped a wrist shot past Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick with 51 seconds left in the game to give his club a 2-1 win and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference best-of-seven quarterfinal.

The Kings now have to win four-of-five games to have any chance of retaining the Stanley Cup.

Jackman was a popular hero among his teammates.

“To see a guy like that who does everything he can to win, it’s just terrific,” said Chris Stewart, who made the pass to Jackman. “He blocks shots, he works hard. What a feeling to see him give his celly (celebration) signal with his arms crossed. He had me doing it.”

Not many people would have put their money on Jackman to score the winner. He had three goals this year and his coach Ken Hitchcock said it was one of his better offensive seasons.

Jackman was asked where this goal ranked in importance.

“Of the three that I scored it ranks No. 1,” he laughed. “It ranks pretty big. When you can contribute in the playoffs, especially a winner late, to hear the crowd go nuts like it did, it’s a great feeling. Playoff time everyone has to contribute. For me, apparently it was my night.”

Jackman has had his ups and downs in his career.

“I don’t think about anything about the past,” Jackman said. “It’s things that I pushed out of my mind. I’m for the moment now. I don’t know how many years I have left and St. Louis has been waiting for emotions like this. I’m just happy to be along for the ride.”

Game 2 was much like Game 1, only it was the Kings who carried the play for the most part. The Blues showed up wired to the point of playing out of control. They took some silly penalties and it cost them a Dustin Brown goal with two men in the penalty box.

It looked like the goal might actually stand up until almost four minutes into the third period, when the Blues got a lucky bounce. A pass in front went off Quick, off Patrick Berglund’s skate, the post and in.

The game was headed to overtime until the lightning bolt from the stick of Jackman. It was the second game in a row that Quick, who made numerous outstanding saves, gave up an iffy winner.

Brian Elliott hasn’t had many tough saves to make but he hasn’t given up any stinkers either.

A major theme of this series has been whether the Blues could win against a Kings’ team that has had their number. This has been a grinding, physical series that Hitchcock says has “been played on the edge.

“We played so much better in the second half than we did in the first,” he said. “We were so amped up, it was unbelievable in the first 30 minutes.

“This is a highly-charged series. Regardless of whether we would have won, I was happy the way we played, we kind of calmed down and played better positional hockey.”

Hitchcock said he felt the emotion on the bench.

“The feeling I had was that the game could have blown up either way in the first 20 minutes. That’s how much on the edge it was,” he said.

With the Kings now fighting for their playoff lives, it’s going to be even more emotionally charged in Game 3 in Los Angeles.

“I don’t think there’s one person in the room that thinks we are in control of anything other than the number that says 2-0,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t think we feel we’re in control of anything. I don’t think they feel they are in control of anything. This is two teams that are going to fight this right to end and every player in that locker room knows that. Every shift seems like the last shift on earth.”