LOS ANGELES — Anze Kopitar skated down Dustin Brown and just plain tackled him, dropping the Los Angeles Kings captain to the ice as a sellout crowd expelled 19 years of frustration.
Brown's goal into the empty St. Louis net had just secured a spot in the Western Conference finals for the Kings, who steamrolled their first two playoff opponents the same way Kopitar flattened his longtime teammate.
Eternal also-rans since joining the NHL nearly 45 years ago, the Kings are going deep in this postseason — and the best of the West hasn't slowed them down yet.
Brown scored two goals, Jonathan Quick made 23 saves, and the eighth-seeded Kings finished an improbable four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues with a 3-1 victory Sunday, advancing to the conference finals for just the second time in club history.
Rookie Jordan Nolan scored an early goal for the Kings, the first No. 8 seed in NHL history to eliminate their conference's top two seeds in the same postseason. The Kings only clinched a playoff berth right before their 81st game, but they've been unstoppable ever since.
"It's a special group, and we knew that all along this season," said Kopitar, the Slovenian star who had assists on both of Brown's goals. "Maybe we didn't break out when we would have liked to, but I think we've peaked at the right time, and that's the most important thing."
After eliminating top-seeded Vancouver and second-seeded St. Louis with eight wins in nine games, the Kings are the first team to earn a conference final berth. They'll face the winner of Phoenix's series with Nashville in the Western Conference finals. The Coyotes lead 3-1, with Game 5 in Phoenix on Monday night.
Los Angeles won despite its weakest effort of the postseason in Game 4, clinging to a 2-1 first-period lead while St. Louis dominated most of the final two periods. Perhaps the Kings didn't adapt well to an unusually early start time, but Quick made a handful of big saves before Brown scored his sixth goal of a stellar postseason with 25.8 seconds left.
The sellout crowd for Game 4 had barely settled in its seats when Blues defenseman Roman Polak turned over the puck near his own net. Nolan, the 22-year-old son of former Buffalo coach Ted Nolan, scored his first career playoff goal just 4:36 in.
St. Louis managed just one shot in the first 11 minutes, but evened the score with its second — a rocket from Shattenkirk, who beat Quick for a rare clean goal against the Kings' All-Star goalie. Shattenkirk hadn't scored in the Blues' past seven playoff games after getting an assist for his first career postseason point in the opener.Comment on this story
DEVILS 4, FLYERS 2: At Newark, N.J., Dainius Zubrus scored two goals and New Jersey rallied from an early two-goal deficit and pushed Philadelphia to the brink of elimination in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Zubrus put New Jersey ahead 3-2 late in the second period and iced the game with an empty-net goal in the final minute. The Devils lead the series 3-1.
Petr Sykora and Marek Zidlicky also scored for the Devils, who can advance to their first conference final since 2003 with a win in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
In winning their third straight, the Devils let goalie Martin Brodeur have an easy night on his 40th birthday, outshooting Philadelphia 43-22. He even picked up an assist on Zubrus' final goal.