Los Angeles Hockey: Daniel Sedin
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks turned to their top line to break out of a two-game funk.
Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen scored 2:44 apart late in the second period to lead the Canucks to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
For more on Saturday night's game, click here.
Game 3 (Kings lead series, 2-0)
Kings vs. St. Louis Blues at Staples Center, 7 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Ding, ding, ding – Anyone who watched the last two periods of Game 2 probably wondered if they were viewing playoff hockey or some sort of Wrestlemania on Ice. After the Kings took a 4-0 lead in the opening period, the game disintegrated into a series of after-the-whistle scrums. There were 14 roughing penalties, five 10-minute misconducts and, as Dustin Penner described, a rear-naked chokehold that he applied on David Perron. Will the Kings get coerced into those antics in Game 3? After all, those were the two best periods by St. Louis in this series. The Kings would be better served to avoid falling into that trap. Their penalty-kill unit has been outstanding against the Blues this season, 26-for-26 to be exact, but even that has a shelf life if left on the ice too long.
2. Pietrangelo to return – Similar to what the Canucks went through with Daniel Sedin in the first-round series, the Blues are hoping defenseman Alex Pietrangelo will provide a much-needed lift after missing Game 2 with an undisclosed injury. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after the morning skate that Pietrangelo will play in Game 3. He leads the team in ice time, is a rock on the special teams and might just be the best player for St. Louis. Of course, Sedin meant just as much to the Canucks, but he wasn’t able to accomplish anything more than keeping Vancouver from getting swept.
3. On your marks – You can almost bank on the Blues treating the first period like a 100-meter dash, similar to what they displayed in Game 1 (and the opposite of how they played in Game 2). St. Louis is a desperate hockey team and they can’t afford to give L.A. another inch. The Kings scored 31 seconds into Game 2 and never looked back. L.A. shouldn’t be surprised by what they see in the first period, but how they react could go a long way toward determining the result. Jonathan Quick bailed them out with several spectacular saves early in Game 1, but the Kings would probably rather counter the Blues with some speed and tenacity of their own. Either way, don’t expect the score to get one-sided early on for a second straight game.
4. Better than nothing – He didn’t give the universal A-OK symbol when asked about his ankle following Game 2, but Jeff Carter at less than 100 percent is still better than most NHL forwards. He missed the final five games of the regular season with a deep bone bruise and wasn’t much of a factor in the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. Carter scored his first playoff goal in 10 games in Game 2, however, a patented wrist shot that hit the net before most even saw it leave his blade. With linemates Mike Richards and Penner playing at a high level, a productive Carter will make things even tougher on the Blues, who are finding it difficult to match up against the Kings top two lines.
5. Clifford getting close – Out since Game 1 of the Vancouver series after an illegal hit by a vagabond forward, Kings fourth-liner Kyle Clifford is getting close to returning from a concussion. Kings coach Darryl Sutter will face a tough decision if that time comes tonight. Brad Richardson has stepped in nicely for Clifford, scoring the third-period tying goal in the series-clinching overtime victory against the Canucks. The fourth line has also been playing as well as any of the forward trios, and breaking up that combination now would be a gamble. Look for Clifford to remain out until the Kings clinch the series, or another forward gives Sutter a good reason to replace him in the lineup.
At least to everyone inside the L.A. locker room.
Sure, the Kings knocked off the President’s Trophy winners, the team with the best record in the NHL during the regular season, and they did it with relative ease.
But with the talent they had on the roster, the Kings were long overdue due for a hot streak.
They basically endured five months of June gloom before realizing they needed to win more than they lost just to qualify for the playoffs for a third straight year, and likely save the jobs of general manage Dean Lombardi and his personal choice to coach the team out of its winter doldrums, Darryl Sutter.
In mid-March, they finally managed a winning streak of more than four games, a six-game stretch in which they beat playoff-bound teams such as the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues, their opponent in the next round.
Even when the Kings lost their final two regular-season games to the Sharks to miss out on just their second Pacific Division title in the franchise’s 44-year history, there was no panic in the locker room, just a sense of preparation for the task at hand.
Most experts picked Vancouver to win the series, but a look beyond the won-loss records suggested the Kings were a legitimate threat all along.
The Kings have five Stanley Cup winners on their roster, and four others who have been to the finals. They have a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie in Jonathan Quick and a Norris Trophy nominated defenseman in Drew Doughty.
They had all the pieces to take it to the Canucks and every reason to succeed.
Vancouver, meanwhile, was missing its leading goal scorer from the regular season, Daniel Sedin, for the first three games due to a concussion. His absence also seemed to silence his twin brother, Henrik, who didn't show up until Daniel returned for Game 4.
They managed to win that game and avoid becoming the first President’s Trophy winner to get swept in the opening round, but then the series went back on the road, a place the Kings are surprisingly more comfortable than at home. They won their fifth straight road playoff game and seventh in the last nine games to eliminate the Canucks and get past the opening round for the first time since 2001.
The series will likely go down as one of the great upsets in hockey history but in reality, the Kings were really just heating up.
Don't expect the temperature to drop anytime soon.
Kings 2, Vancouver Canucks 1 (OT)
(Kings win series, 4-1)
Eight keys to the game
THE FACTS: Down by a goal to start the third period and with the momentum of the series tilting heavily toward Vancouver, the Kings rallied to tie the score Sunday night at Rogers Arena, then won their first playoff series in 11 years on an overtime goal by Jarret Stoll. The Kings will meet the St. Louis Blues in the second round.
THE STAT: The Kings won their fifth consecutive playoff game on the road, including all three in this series, extending their franchise record. It’s the first time they’ve clinched a playoff series on the road since 1993. They also became the 10th No. 8 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed since the playoff format was realigned in the 1993-94 season, and sixth time a President’s Trophy winner was eliminated in the first round.
TURNING POINT: Just more than four minutes into overtime, Trevor Lewis poked the puck away from Vancouver defenseman Dan Hamhuis near the Canucks' blue line and Hamhuis tumbled to the ice. As Stoll scooped in the puck and raced off on a 2-on-1, the Vancouver crowd groaned with displeasure, as they thought Hamhuis was tripped. With rookie Dwight King on his right and Canucks defenseman Sami Salo left alone to defend the play, Stoll chose to shoot the puck from the left faceoff circle, beating goalie Cory Schneider in the top left corner for the biggest goal of his career.HOT: In the days leading up to Game 5, Kings coach Darryl Sutter challenged goalie Jonathan Quick to be as good as Schneider, who had allowed just two goals in both Games 3 and 4 after taking over for Roberto Luongo. Quick met the challenge head on, stopping 26 shots. His best save might have come on a breakaway by Daniel Sedin late in the second period, one that left the door open for the Kings to come back.
NOT: Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler entered the playoffs as the team's third-leading goal scorer during the regular season, but also riding a 12-game goal-less streak. He proved that the slump was still alive and well, going all five playoff games without hitting the back of the net.
GOOD MOVE: Sutter juggled his scoring lines to start the second period, moving Dustin Penner up with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and dropping King back to the third line with Stoll and Lewis. The move obviously worked, not so much for the Richards line, but it got the third line moving again. The third line ended up scoring four goals in the series, while the second line had one.
BAD MOVE: The Kings went on the power play twice in the first five minutes of the game and managed just three shots on goal, while Vancouver blocked four others. Then it was L.A.’s turn to visit the penalty box, as Drew Doughty was penalized for holding and Brad Richardson took a seat for roughing Chris Tanev. On the second man-advantage, the Kings failed on two chances to clear the puck, allowing Sedinto walk the puck out from the right-wing boards. Sedin faked a shot and got Quick to bite, then centered the puck to his twin brother, Henrik, who scored into the open side of the net for a 1-0 lead, Vancouver’s third power-play goal in the past two games. Doughty and Richardson redeemed themselves, however, teaming up on the tying goal in the third period.
NOTABLE: The Kings ended up with 19 blocked shots, including eight for Willie Mitchell and five for Doughty, who also set up the tying goal on a nifty pass to Richardson. Stoll also led the way with a team-high seven hits. The Kings have never won a playoff game against the St. Louis Blues, getting swept in 1969 and 1998. … Schneider was 0-10 in overtime playoff games in his AHL career.
UP NEXT: Game 1 at St. Louis Blues, TBA.
Kings vs. the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena, 5 p.m.
Game 5 (Kings lead the series, 3-1)
Five storylines to track:
1. Deep breaths -- It’s certainly not panic time. No, the hyperventilating will occur tonight if the Kings don’t wrap up this series with a win. The Kings earned the first two victories of the series in Vancouver, got outplayed but stole a win in Game 3, and in Game 4, they delivered the better performance, but the bounces finally went Vancouver’s way. Even when the Kings were up 3-0 in the series, getting that elusive fourth victory has been viewed as an enormous barrier. Right now, that brick wall looks to be about 10 feet tall.
2. Physical edge -- The Kings delivered 50 hits in Game 4, the most in their past 15 playoff games dating to the 2009-10 season. Only one was placed on Daniel Sedin, who was making his first appearance after missing the previous 12 games with a concussion. In the locker room afterward, the Kings talked about making life harder on Sedin in Game 5, and they maintained that attitude in the days that followed. Don’t expect the Kings to make a Raffi Torres-like run at Sedin; that’s not their style, but they'll likely give him a bump every chance they get.
3. Three-day delay -- In an unusual scheduling quirk brought about by limited arena availability, the Kings and Canucks had to wait three days between Games 4 and 5. That probably benefited Vancouver more than it did the Kings. Most importantly, it gave Sedin an extra couple of days to get back in shape after sitting for four weeks. Hopefully, the Kings used the extra time to study their power play, which has come up empty on its last 13 man-advantage situations, nearly matching Vancouver’s 0-for-14 start to the series. If the Kings can’t at least stay even with Vancouver in the special teams battles, they have little chance of closing the series tonight.
4. MVP time -- Kings coach Darryl Sutter continues to lay down the challenges for goalie Jonathan Quick, the team's most valuable player during the regular season. He said Friday that for the Kings to be successful, they needed Quick to be as good as Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider, who has started the last two games in place of Roberto Luongo and held the Kings to two goals. Quick has been fabulous in the series, highlighted by his 1-0 shutout in Game 3, but the Canucks scored on two long-range shots in Game 4. If Quick is truly a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie, he might need to step up and win this series by himself.
5. Line changes -- The Canucks made some adjustments to their scoring lines the last couple of days, putting Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Maxim Lapierre on the second line, and dropping Jannik Hansen to the third line and Mason Raymond to the fourth. The move should spread out their offense and make them tougher to defend. Raymond is not a typical fourth liner, producing 10 goals and 10 assists in 52 regular-season games.
The Kings last played Wednesday night in Game 4, losing to the Vancouver Canucks, 3-1, at Staples Center. They lead the best-of-seven series three-games-to-one and can finish off the top-seeded Canucks with a victory Sunday in Game 5 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The puck is scheduled to drop at 5 p.m.
“We only have to win one game so I think it would be nice to get right back at it,” Carter said after practice Friday.
This latest hiatus comes on the heels of a two-day wait between Games 3 and 4 in L.A. Typically, NHL playoff games are contested every other day.
Why the long breaks?
Blame the Lakers, Clippers and the band Coldplay.
The Lakers and Clippers had home games on Monday and Tuesday of this week, and Coldplay is playing at Rogers Arena on Saturday night, forcing Game 5 to be played Sunday.
“What can you do,” said Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi. “It’s building availability.”
That doesn’t mean Scuderi likes the setup.
“You’re in the rhythm of playing, you just want to stay in that rhythm,” he said. “I’d rather just get right back at it.”
They entered the Western Conference quarterfinal with a three-games-to-none series lead on the Vancouver Canucks, needing just one more victory to become the first team to sweep the President’s Trophy winner in the first round.
They were on a roll, playing on their home ice and facing a desperate team whose leading goal scorer, Daniel Sedin, was attempting to return from a four-week absence due to a concussion. Instead of treating Sedin like a wounded seal in a sea of sharks, they gave him room to work, room to escape and enough slack to help the Canucks dodge an embarrassing elimination.
Sedin was on the ice for all three goals in the 3-1 victory by the Canucks, assisting on the third, scored by his twin brother, Henrik.
“If you give them time and space, they’re going to make plays,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said of the Sedins. “They made us pay.”
It’s not that the Kings ditched their physical game. They registered 50 hits, more than they had in any of their previous 15 playoff games, but only one was put on Daniel Sedin.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said the Kings let him off easy.
“We gave him too much room out there, especially with a guy who hasn't played for a while and just got back,” he said. “We needed to take the body on him a little more and play him a little harder and we didn’t do that tonight. That’s why he was successful.”
Following the game, Kings coach Darryl Sutter was asked if the Kings were too soft on the Sedins. Daniel finished with 19 minutes 33 seconds of ice time, nine seconds less than his brother.
“Well they’re tough guys to be aggressive against,” he said. “They’re pretty smart guys. If you can manage to do it in a time and space fashion then, without taking a penalty, we’ll probably have a chance.”
After going 0-for-14 on the power play in the first three games of the series, the Canucks went 2-for-3 in Game 4. No doubt, Daniel Sedin's presence helped get the unit untracked.
“So patient with the puck and he breaks it down as good as anybody in the league,” said Vancouver right wing Alex Burrows. “Especially with Hanky [Henrik Sedin] there, they’re able to move the puck to open areas and find lanes and find seams and that’s why they’re unbelievable together.”
Now that the questions are gone regarding Daniel Sedin’s readiness for the remainder of the series, the Kings have three days until Game 5 to figure out a game plan. They've won four straight playoff games on the road and a fifth will clinch their first playoff series since 2001.
“It’s a series again,” Doughty said. “We’re going into their barn and we’ll be fired up for that game. We’ve got to make sure we come out with our best.”
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Sutter said. “You don’t get anything for winning three games.”
Now, Sutter is generally viewed as a curmudgeon and his scowl on the bench is legendary in every city he has coached and played in during his 19 years in the NHL, but he has been around the game long enough to know that series leads, no matter how big or small, can quickly turn into series losses if you think it’s over before it is.
Following the Canucks’ 3-1 win over the Kings in Game 4, this series is far from over with two of the next three games slated for Vancouver and the Canucks now playing with Daniel Sedin, who returned to the ice Wednesday for the first time in nearly four weeks after dealing with a concussion.
“We have nothing to lose,” Sedin said. “It’s pretty easy to play hockey when you have nothing to lose. You see that every year in the NHL. Teams you thought were out start winning. You can just relax and have fun, and we did that tonight. It’s tough in the playoffs to do that, but we’re in a position now where L.A. has all the pressure and we just have to go out and play hockey.”
That odd philosophical change in the series took place the moment the Kings, the No. 8 seed, took a 3-0 series lead on the No. 1 seed Canucks, who finished with the best record in the NHL and were on the brink of being the first Presidents’ Cup trophy winners to be swept in the first round.
Sutter stressed to his team before Wednesday night's game the difference between a close-out game and the first three games of the series, in which the Kings’ toughness, aggressiveness and carefree attitude propelled them to three straight wins over Vancouver. If the Kings’ players had sneaked a peek at the closing moments of the playoff game before them on television, they would have seen how different it really is. On the brink of being swept, the Pittsburgh Penguins demolished the Philadelphia Flyers 10-3 in a game that was so lopsided “#mercyrule” was trending on Twitter.
Game 4 (Kings lead the series, 3-0)
After the 2nd period:
VancouverCanucks 2, Kings 1
The good: Although they lost the lead in the second period, the Kings are still playing a solid all-around game. They out-shot the Canucks, 18-9, in the period and have a 31-16 advantage overall. Jarret Stoll is 8-0 in the faceoff circle to help the Kings to a 21-18 advantage on the drop. The Kings are also the more physical team, owning a 37-21 advantage on hits. Jeff Carter, Matt Greene and Stoll have four apiece.
The bad: The first extended rough stretch of the series hit the Kings and goalie Jonathan Quick during the middle period. The Canucks scored two goals 4 ½ minutes apart to take their first lead since the opening period of Game 1. The Canucks finally cashed in on their power play to get their first goal. Colin Fraser went to the penalty box for tripping Keith Ballard in L.A.’s offensive zone and, 34 seconds later, Alexander Edler sent a low wrist-shot from the point that beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with 15:53 remaining in the period. Ryan Kesler may have blinded Quick with a screen. Daniel Sedin, in his first game back after missing the last 12 with a concussion, was originally credited with an assist on the goal, but it was later awarded to Kesler. They made it 2-1 on a goal by another defensemen from about the same spot as Edler’s. The play was set in motion when Mike Richards turned the puck over in the neutral zone. The puck made its way to Kevin Bieksa, who let go of a shot from just inside the blue line. The puck appeared to deflect off Richards and change directions, beating Quick as Sedin distracted him on the doorstep.
The in between: Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell had a team-high three blocked shots, but also leads the team with three giveaways. Carter has five shots on goal but is still looking for his first goal of the series. The Kings managed eight shots on goal on their two power plays late in the second period, but still haven’t got one past Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider.
Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks at Staples Center, 7 p.m. PT
(Kings lead the best-of-seven series 3-0)
Five storylines to track:
1. History lesson -- Get out your curling brooms; the Kings are going for the sweep. This wouldn’t be a typical sweep, but the first time the top-seeded team in the NHL (or NBA, for that matter) has been swept out of the first round. No easy task, as the Canucks have played better and better as the series has unfolded, and a four-and-out could lead to major changes in the offseason, most likely from the top down. The Kings are already meandering in uncharted waters, as they’ve never held a 3-0 series lead in franchise history. Seems pretty obvious they’d like to take care of business Wednesday night and avoid another trip to Vancouver for Game 5.
2. Game-time decision -- The biggest question heading into Game 4 probably won’t have a definite answer until shortly before game time, but Daniel Sedin, out the past 12 games with a concussion, went through practice Tuesday and skated Wednesday morning at Staples Center, and all indications point to Vancouver's leading goal scorer giving it a go. Sedin is no Sidney Crosby, but he does comprise one of the league’s most dangerous tandems with his twin brother, Henrik. How much Daniel Sedin can contribute is another story. He admitted to being out of shape after sitting out most of the past four weeks and hasn’t had any contact. Cory Schneider also gets his second straight start in goal for Vancouver.
3. Powerless -- The stat that continues to jump off the score sheet is the power-play futility by the Canucks. Or maybe it’s just the dynamic penalty kill by the Kings? Either way, the 0-for-14 by Vancouver has been as key to this series as anything Jonathan Quick or Dustin Brown has accomplished for the Kings. The Canucks were heading in this direction coming into the series. Over their last four games of the regular season, the Canucks went 16 straight power plays without scoring. In the past seven games overall, they're 2-for-34. Having both Sedins on the ice would surely be a boost to that unit.
4. Time to shine -- Jeff Carter is due. He doesn’t have a goal in this series and has gone the past seven games overall without hitting the back of the net. In his past 14 postseason games, he has just two goals. He’s known as a proficient goal scorer, evident by the 144 he put up during the previous four regular seasons, but he’s also building a reputation as someone who disappears in the playoffs, whether on the ice or off in the trainer’s room. Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams also are due to light the lamp this series, but at least they've contributed an assist in each game.
5. Richardson in, Loktionov out -- Kings fourth-line winger Kyle Clifford will be out of action for a third consecutive game after taking a brutal hit from Byron Bitz in Game 1. Bitz, by the way, is available to return after serving his two-game suspension for the illegal hit. Brad Richardson, sidelined since undergoing an emergency appendectomy April 9, is ready to play and will assume Clifford’s spot on the checking line. Andrei Loktionov, who was called up to fill in for Richardson and then for Clifford, will be a healthy scratch. Richardson gives the Kings more speed and mobility than Clifford, and more grit and toughness than Loktionov, so the Kings should be in good shape.
EL SEGUNDO -- There was a mutual feeling Monday morning at Toyota Sports Center, one of dissatisfaction.
Strange, considering the Kings went up 3-games-to-none on the Vancouver Canucks with a 1-0 victory the night before at Staples Center, the first time in franchise history they’ve taken such a lead in the playoffs.
But the Canucks had the best record in the NHL during the regular season for a reason, and they’ve steadily played better as the series has progressed. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Kings heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
“We’re lucky to be in this situation we’re in now,” defenseman Matt Greene said.
Vancouver pelted the Kings with 41 shots on goal in Game 3, the second straight game they’ve surpassed the 40-shot mark. The Canucks killed all eight power plays by the Kings and kept possession of the puck for long stretches in the offensive zone. Most of the Kings looked as if they were a step behind the Canucks, and a couple appeared as if they were going one way while the puck was going another.
If it wasn’t for a gift rebound off the pads of goalie Cory Schneider that an unmarked Dustin Brown deposited in the net with 13:30 remaining in the game, the Kings could easily be looking at a 2-1 series lead with the opportunity for Vancouver to steal back home-ice advantage in Game 4.
“We still haven’t played our best hockey, and I thought we were probably even worse yesterday than we were in Game 2,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We definitely need to pick up our socks and every single one of us needs to play better.”
Those words sound as if they’re coming from a player whose team is facing elimination rather than one game from winning its first playoff series in 11 years.
“There are a lot of things we’ve got to address here,” Greene said. “The last two games, like I said, they’ve been playing well, they’ve been getting themselves going and we’ve been lucky, so we’ve got to regroup and have a better game.”
Vancouver didn’t practice Monday, but leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin will be flying to L.A. and begin practicing with the team Tuesday. He has missed the past 12 games because of a concussion, so it’s still unclear if his arrival will be more of a morale boost than a physical one, but the Kings are more concerned with their play anyway.
“The next game is going to be the toughest of them all,” Doughty said. “Vancouver took it to us last night. They played their best game of the series and now it’s our turn to play our best game. We can’t treat it as if we’re up 3-0, we’ve just got to win one more. We’ve got to play our hardest game yet and take it as if we’re down a few.”
Brown, who drew as much attention for his jaw-rattling check on Henrik Sedin early in the second period as he did for his fourth goal of the playoffs, said it all comes down to time of possession in the offensive zone.
“Game 1 was a really good puck-possession game for us and we made it really hard on their top guys to have offensive opportunities,” he said. “The last two games, they’ve had over 40 shots against us. … We didn’t give up a ton of Grade-A scoring chances, but if we can play in their end, it makes it a lot harder for them.”
Quickly and effectively getting the puck out of the defensive zone will also be a key, Doughty said.
“I felt we were making too many turnovers, the [defense] wasn’t moving pucks up quick enough and we weren’t getting pucks in deep,” he said. “If we’re doing that, they’re going to turn things around and create odd-man rushes and that’s what they did last game. … They peppered [goalie Jonathan Quick] with a lot of shots and so next game we’ve got to fix that.”
Maybe then they can sit back and appreciate what they've accomplished.
Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
(Kings lead the best-of-seven series, 2-0)
Five storylines to track:
1. Two down, two to go – The Kings haven’t been in this situation in a loooooong time. They went to Vancouver for the opening two games of this series and brought back more than most expected; two decisive victories. They haven’t led a series, 2-0, since 1968. Calling this the biggest set of back-to-back home playoff games in 20 years might be a stretch, as they were in a similar position the last two seasons, but a lot of pent-up misery will be erased if the Kings can finish off the Canucks. It’s important for the players to realize they haven’t won anything yet. And if they don’t, you can bet coach Darryl Sutter will give them plenty of reminders.
2. Passing the test – Almost from the first drop of the puck in this series, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty has been a marked man. The Canucks have taken open-ice runs at him, roughed him up along the boards and tried to entice him into retaliation penalties. Except for a big hit he took on the opening shift of the series, he has dodged every effort by the Canucks to get him off his game. As the clear leader in on-ice time, both in the regular season and the playoffs, it’s important for Doughty to stay out of the penalty box and away from the trainer’s room, and let his natural abilities do the rest. He’s doing an admirable job so far.
3. Unexpected contributions – The third line of Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis has been another pleasant surprise. The trio has accounted for three goals in the series, including both game winners. Just how remarkable is that? They combined for three goals the final two months of the regular season and one game winner the entire year. If the Kings can continue to get offense from the third line, it will surely take some of the pressure off the top six forwards and dump even more on the Canucks.
4. Similar situation – The news out of Vancouver isn’t getting any better for Daniel Sedin. The team’s leading goal scorer has missed the last 11 games because of a concussion and didn’t fly to L.A. with his team Saturday. He has already been ruled out for Game 3, and it doesn't seem likely he'll make the trip for Game 4 either. The Kings can relate. They lost their leading point scorer last season, Anze Kopitar, to a broken ankle with seven games remaining in the regular season. His absence from the playoffs possibly made the difference in the six-game loss to the Sharks. If Vancouver fans are looking to make excuses, they won’t find any listeners in L.A.
5. Clifford still out – The Kings will also be without a forward due to injury, only their missing piece isn't the sniper that Sedin is, but rather fourth-line left wing Kyle Clifford. He suffered an upper-body injury when he was slammed into the glass by Vancouver right wing Byron Bitz during Game 1, earning Bitz a two-game suspension. Sutter made the interesting choice before Game 2 of replacing Clifford in the lineup with a finesse player, rookie Andrei Loktionov, rather than another bruiser in Kevin Westgarth. Loktionov was limited to six shifts, but did manage a takeaway and a blocked shot. He gives the Kings another element of speed, something they’ve been better at through the first two games. If he can avoid getting bumped off the puck in the three zones, Loktionov should continue to fill in nicely for Clifford.
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.
Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Reset button – The best aspect of the playoffs is it allows teams a fresh start, a clean slate or a good old-fashioned mulligan. That’s particularly beneficial for the Kings. They came into this season looking like a Pacific Division contender, but then spun their wheels through most of November, December and January before completely gagging in their final two regular season games against the Sharks. That also caused them to miss out on just their second division championship in franchise history. Those shortcomings would be quickly forgotten with a series win against the top-seeded Canucks, and no better time to begin erasing the past than Game 1.
2. Quick fix – Make no mistake, the Kings would be heading into the offseason with their fishing poles and golf clubs if not for goalie Jonathan Quick. He kept them earning points during the middle months of the season, when the Kings struggled just to put up more than a goal or two. But this is the time of year he has struggled, owning a 4-8 postseason record with a 3.32 goals-against average. In four of those losses, he has allowed five or more goals. Quick needs to be dominant from the start against the Canucks, or the thoughts of, “Here we go again,” could fill a few heads.
Opponent: Vancouver Canucks.
Records: Kings, 40-27-15, 95 points (8th in Western Conference); Canucks 51-22-9, 111 points (1st in Western Conference).
Playoff Schedule: Wednesday @ Vancouver; Friday @ Vancouver; Sunday @ L.A.; April 11 @ L.A.; April 22 @ Vancouver (if needed); April 24 @ L.A. (if needed); April 22 @ Vancouver (if needed).
Previous meetings this season:
Nov. 10 @ Staples Center – Canucks 3, Kings 2
The Canucks grabbed a three-goal lead in the first-period and never looked back, leaving the Kings winless for the sixth time in seven games. That pretty much erased their 6-2-1 start to the season. On the positive side, the game marked the debut of Kings fourth-line center Colin Fraser, who turned out to be a key piece of the puzzle this season. Fraser, acquired in the offseason trade that sent Ryan Smyth back to Edmonton, sat out training camp and the first six weeks of the season while recovering from foot surgery and waiting for this shot to crack the lineup. He became a mainstay for the season, even earning the team's Masterton Trophy nomination for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Dec. 31 @ Staples Center – Kings 4, Canucks 1
Playing a home game on New Year’s Eve for just the second time in franchise history, Kings center Anze Kopitar ended a career-long 17-game goal-less streak, and coach Darryl Sutter improved to 4-0-2 since replacing Terry Murray 10 days earlier. Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard may have set the tone for this series when he speared Kings forward Kyle Clifford behind the Vancouver net, then sucker-punched him after Clifford fell to the ice. Ballard has been out since February with concussion symptoms, but those cheap shots just added to the disdain between these two clubs and their fans.
Jan. 17 @ Rogers Arena – Kings, 3, Canucks 2 (SO)
The Kings were still trying to establish some footing when they rolled into Vancouver following an overtime loss in Edmonton two nights earlier. They hung with the Canucks long enough to win in a shootout, but the game was probably best remembered for a rare goal from beleaguered left wing Dustin Penner. Kings right wing Justin Williams also had a goal in regulation and another in the shootout in what turned out to be the fifth game of a season-long nine-game point streak.
March 26 @ Rogers Arena – Canucks 1, Kings 0
After not seeing the Canucks for more than two months, the Kings paid another visit up north to kick off a key four-game road trip, one that would determine their postseason fate. They were stonewalled by Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, sending them tumbling out of the top eight in the Western Conference with six games remaining. They regrouped to finish 2-1-1 on the road trip and pull themselves back inside the cutoff, where they stayed for the remainder of the season. That same day, Vancouver made the first public admission that leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin had a concussion, which caused him to miss the last nine games of the regular season and put him in jeopardy of missing playoff time.
Playoff fact: The Kings and Canucks met in the first round two years ago, with the Canucks winning in six games.