LOS ANGELES -- A penalty shot in the postseason happens to the Kings, oh, about as often as a Stanley Cup finals appearance.
Dustin Brown found himself in that rare position early in the third period Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. While trying to kill a penalty in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series, he stole the puck in the defensive zone and sped off on a breakaway.
Brown, who scored two short-handed goals in the Game 2 victory in Vancouver, was taken down from behind by Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, and a penalty shot was immediately signaled.
As the Staples Center crowd rose to its feet and the noise level swelled, Brown headed toward Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider. He slowed up, faked a shot and then tried to slide the puck through Schneider’s pads.
Schneider made the stick save, and 22 seconds later, Henrik Sedin scored on the remaining power play, giving Vancouver a 3-1 lead. The score held up until the end, keeping the Canucks alive heading into Game 5 on Sunday in Vancouver. It was just the second penalty shot in playoff history for the Kings and their first since 1991. The only difference was the Kings made the other one.
“[Schneider] made a big save, and it was probably the biggest moment of the game,” Brown said. “It really helped them settle into their game. With a two-goal lead, you get more breathing room and maybe you don’t necessarily have to be as aggressive.”
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty wasn’t ready to call the missed penalty shot a key momentum changer. He looked back at the first period, when the Kings had at least half a dozen Grade-A scoring chances but scored only once to take a 1-0 lead into the second period.
“We had an opportunity to put them away in the first period and we didn’t do that,” Doughty said. “We played a good first period, and after that, we kind of let them take it back to us. We’ve got to continue to play how we played in the first and not give them any chances.”
In addition to the missed penalty shot, the Kings had a goal waved off because the play had been blown dead, and they twice hit the post in the third period.
“We’re not a team that scores a lot, and you have to score on your opportunities,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “We had a borderline whistle non-goal and we missed the penalty shot, so we could just as easily be standing here talking about a totally different thing right now.”
The Kings sent 44 shots at Schneider, but Justin Williams said they need to do more.
“It’s going to take a lot more traffic, it’s going to take a lot more rebounds, just like [against] any goalie,” he said. “You’re in the NHL here, and every goalie is good, no matter who they put in the net.”
The Kings now face three days between games, giving them extra time to evaluate what went wrong against the Canucks, a team that avoided becoming the first top-seeded team to get swept in the first round of the playoffs.
“We wanted to close it out tonight and we didn’t do it,” said Anze Kopitar, who scored the lone goal for the Kings. “We’ve got some time to think about it, which is a somewhat good thing and somewhat not a good thing, but we have to put it behind us and get ready and look ahead to Game 5.”