NHL on NBC: Kings look to sweep Blues

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During the regular season, Brian Elliott never gave up more than six goals over the span of back-to-back starts. He only surrendered four goals in a single game three times and he never did worse than that. Then he came up against one of the most anemic offenses during the regular season and everything began to change.

Suddenly Elliott is looking like a playoff goat after allowing nine goals in his last two starts and with Jaroslav Halak unavailable, the St. Louis Blues’ goaltending has suddenly become a problem going into Sunday’s game (3:00 pm ET, NBC). They need this issue fixed and fast, because if they don’t win all of their next four games, then their playoff run is over.

This is the second time the Los Angeles Kings have taken a 3-0 series lead. That’s a momentous feat for an eighth seed, but at this point they’ve proven that they’re no underdog.

On paper they’ve always had a good team. Los Angeles has an elite goaltender in Jonathan Quick, some great offensive threats in Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter. Throw in Drew Doughty and some nice defensive blueliners in Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell, and Rob Scuderi and it’s not hard to see why they are competing.

All those pieces didn’t really come together as advertised during the regular season, but they’ve improved significantly since Darryl Sutter took over as the team’s head coach.

The challenge for the St. Louis Blues is to succeed where the Vancouver Canucks – and most other teams for that matter – have previously failed. They still have a young core complimented by experienced veterans and a great defense. They’re the type of team you could see going on a long run when they’re hot. But they have to get hot immediately, because they have run out of room for error.

Game 4 Notes:

— Elliott’s current three-game losing streak matches his longest slump during the regular season.
— The Los Angeles Kings have a perfect 5-0 road record, but they have lost one playoff game in the Staples Center.
— Mike Richards had a Gordie Howe hat trick on Thursday.
— St. Louis has been outscored 4-7 in the first period of 2012 playoff games.