Western Conference Quarterfinals
Kings 4, Vancouver Canucks 2
Eight keys to the game:
THE FACTS: Dustin Penner, the beleaguered left wing for the Kings, scored the go-ahead goal with 3:14 remaining Wednesday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, and Dustin Brown sealed the victory with an empty netter with 18 seconds left, as L.A. took away home-ice advantage with the victory against the top-seeded Canucks.
THE STAT: Penner, a four-time 20-goal scorer and Stanley Cup winner with the Ducks in 2007, had scored seven goals all season and didn’t produce a point in the previous nine games. All of that was forgotten when he banged home the eighth playoff goal of his seven-year career to break a 2-2 tie.
TURNING POINT: The Kings had just killed off Vancouver’s fifth power play of the game when Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler elected to clear the puck through the middle of the ice, rather than play it safely along the boards. His pass hit Mike Richards in the chest, keeping the puck in the offensive zone. He passed it to Jeff Carter to his right, but the puck hit Carter’s skate and he appeared to direct it across the slot to Penner, who hit the wide-open side of the net for a 3-2 lead.
HOT: Richards had one of his best games in months. He not only forced the turnover and set up the game winner, but he scored the first goal by the Kings to tie the score, 1-1, with 6:29 remaining in the opening period. While on the power play, Richards had the puck down low and fooled Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo by shooting the puck through his pads, rather than making a cross-ice pass in front of the crease. Richards also showed his physical side, laying a big hit on Vancouver right wing Alex Burrows in the game’s final minute. Richards was among the team leaders with four hits.
NOT: The Kings lost one of their key fourth-line forwards midway through the second period when Vancouver right wing Byron Bitz laid a hard lick on Kyle Clifford from behind, slamming his head against the glass and twisting his neck awkwardly. Clifford was unsteady as he left the ice and did not return. Bitz was given a five-minute major boarding penalty and a game misconduct, and the Kings scored on the ensuing power play for a 2-1 lead. Expect the league to take a long look at that hit for any additional discipline.
GOOD MOVE: The Kings took it to the Canucks hard and fast, out-shooting them 13-6, in the opening period and 24-11 through the halfway point of the game. They converted on two of eight power plays and killed all five penalties, continuing their solid play on the special teams. Jonathan Quick allowed a goal on the first pressure he faced, but steadied himself in the third period, when the Canucks made their biggest push and finished with 24 saves to improve to 5-8 in the postseason for his career.
BAD MOVE: The Canucks made their first real surge after the Kings went up 2-1 late in the second period, courtesy of a goal by defenseman Willie Mitchell. Vancouver's second scoring play began when Kings defenseman Drew Doughty also made the mistake of spinning into the middle of the ice, rather than clearing the puck along the boards. Vancouver stole the puck and then followed with heavy pressure, forcing the Kings to ice the puck with 10 seconds remaining in the period. Kings coach Darryl Sutter could have called a timeout to give his players a breather. He did not and the Canucks won the ensuing faceoff and scored on a point shot by Edler with seven seconds left in the period, erasing any momentum the Kings had built.
NOTABLE: Dating to last season, the Kings have won three consecutive playoff games on the road for the first time in franchise history. … Vancouver's leading goal scorer, Daniel Sedin, missed his 10th consecutive game because of a concussion. ... The Canucks managed just three shots on net on their five power plays. … The Kings are 8-for-24 with a two-man advantage this season. … Mitchell’s goal was his third in 52 playoff games. … The Kings also won Game 1 in Vancouver two years ago before losing four of the next five.
UP NEXT: Game 2, Friday at Rogers Arena, 7 p.m.