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    Kings can’t solve Jordan Binnington in loss to Blues
    • March 14, 2024

    By JOE HARRIS The Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS — Be it the postseason or the race for a postseason berth, a hot goaltender is often the difference-maker.

    Jordan Binnington made 40 saves and the St. Louis Blues beat the Kings, 3-1, on Wednesday night in a key game in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

    “We had lots of pucks in and around their net,” Kings interim coach Jim Hiller told reporters in St. Louis. “I think we maybe tried to overpass in that area and the times that we did shoot and there were deflections or it just missed our stick, that’s not execution, that’s just the way the puck bounces sometimes. There were definitely opportunities to execute a little cleaner around the net [though] that we weren’t able to do.”

    Alexey Toropchenko, Jake Neighbours and Brandon Saad scored for the Blues, who kicked off a four-game homestand.

    “I think we’ve done a good job this year as a group, playing the right way and playing tight in our own zone,” Binnington said. “I think it’s been a lot better, and it’s fun to play back there and I’m enjoying it. It’s a big win for us, coming home like that. We’ve got more work to do. That’s the focus.”

    Adrian Kempe scored the Kings’ goal and Cam Talbot made 27 saves as the Kings lost for the third time in five games.

    “I think for us, our identity to play well defensively and break them down,” Kings defenseman Jordan Spence said in assessing the defeat. “And I think in general, for our whole game, I think we didn’t really do that. There are some bits and pieces that we did that during the game, but in order for us to win from now on, we have to play a full 60 minutes and we didn’t do that.”

    The win moved St. Louis within six points of idle Vegas for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Blues have 16 games remaining, while the Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights have 17 left.

    “It makes things very interesting and starts to put a little heat on some of the teams that are in front of us and certainly an important game … but we have to continue to work to keep that feeling,” Blues interim coach Drew Bannister said.

    Toropchenko gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with 2:30 left in the first period. It was Toropchenko’s second goal in as many games and it snapped a streak of 81 minutes, 10 seconds since the Kings last allowed a goal.

    “That was disappointing because we thought we came out ready to play,” Hiller said. “We were, you know, in and around their net. I don’t know how much we tested them, but we were around, pucks were just kind of rolling past. So, we felt we’re going pretty good and then yeah, to have to come in down 1-0, that’s not a great feeling.”

    Neighbours made it 2-0 by tapping in a bouncing puck in front of the Kings’ net at the 1:57 mark of the second period.

    Binnington made several tough saves in the second, stopping several deflections. He also got help from his post.

    “We’ve put ourselves in a position here to create a new story and find a way in (the playoffs),” Binnington said. “We believe in this locker room that if you get there anything can happen.”

    Saad made it 3-0 with 9:34 left in the third period off a slick tip of Colton Parayko’s shot. Kevin Hayes, who was playing in his 700th career game, also got an assist on the goal.

    Binnington has left an impression on Hayes, who is in his first season with the Blues.

    “It’s huge,” Hayes said. “It’s every night. He’s been our best player all year. We were struggling to score goals for a bit and he kept us in every game. He pretty much keeps us in every game every night.”

    Binnington continued to frustrate the Kings in the third, with a sprawling save on a shot by Drew Doughty during a mid-period flurry. Kempe finally broke through with 6:52 left.

    Pavel Buchnevich suited up in his 200th game as a member of the Blues.


    The Kings play at Chicago on Friday at 5:30 p.m. PT

    ​ Orange County Register