LOS ANGELES -- On a night when neither team seemed willing to give an inch, Dustin Brown made a special delivery to the Vancouver Canucks.
The team captain and longest-tenured member of the Los Angeles Kings laid out the star player for Vancouver with one of his biggest hits of the season, then threw a wrench in the Canucks’ postseason hopes with a third-period goal that stood up as the game winner Sunday night in the 1-0 victory at Staples Center.
With the win, the Kings took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, their first such advantage in franchise history. Game 4 is Wednesday night back at Staples Center.
“He’s scoring some huge goals for us, and at the same time he’s playing well defensively and making those big hits, and that’s what we need from our captain,” defenseman Drew Doughty said of Brown. “He’s leading us on and off the ice. Scoring big goals like that is going to take us a long way.”
Brown has four goals in the series, including two short-handers in the 4-2 victory Friday night in Vancouver.
“Tonight was probably one of the best games he has played in a long time,” said Anze Kopitar, who quickly caught himself. “I guess the one in Vancouver was not too bad, either.”
After the Kings scrambled just to keep the puck out of their net during the first period, getting outshot, 11-5, Brown changed the tone early in the second when he crushed Vancouver’s leading point scorer, Henrik Sedin, who was standing in front of his bench battling Kopitar for the puck. He never saw Brown coming.
“He’s a hard player, an elusive player to hit and one of their top players,” Brown said of Sedin. “I just got a chance to finish my check and I did. … They reacted like any team would when one of their better players gets hit like that.”
Sedin laid on the ice trying to catch his breath and briefly went to the dressing room, but after the game said it was a “clean hit.”
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault agreed. Somewhat.
“I didn’t like the position Henrik was in, but other than that it was a good hit,” he said.
Following the blow, Alex Burrows and Kevin Bieksa went after Brown to retaliate. Brown lost his balance and fell to the ice, but Kopitar stepped in and ended up dropping the gloves for the first time in his career and fighting Burrows.
“There was two guys on Brownie and I wanted to make sure he didn’t get outnumbered,” Kopitar said.
Burrows and Kopitar went to the box for five minutes, plus Bieksa was given two additional minutes for roughing Brown. Though the Kings were unable to capitalize on the man advantage, the hit by Brown did fluster the Canucks into committing two more minor penalties during the period. That slowly deflated their momentum.
“That was one of the better hits I’ve seen in a long time,” Doughty said. “It definitely gave us some momentum, to show that our leadership is showing the way to go, and we all just have to follow that.”
The teams continued trading chances until a wrist shot from Justin Williams was saved by Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider, but an unmarked Brown was able to stuff the rebound high into the net with 13:30 remaining in the game.
“He was huge again tonight,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of Brown. “That’s why he’s our captain.”