Kings lose playoff opener to Canucks in overtime
The Kings’ first playoff game in eight years was a splendid performance, making up with heart what several of their key players lacked in Stanley Cup playoff experience.
It was a disappointment to them but no shame that they were done in by the quick hands and great vision of NHL scoring champion Henrik Sedin, whose pass from behind the net found Mikael Samuelsson in the slot for a wrist shot that beat Jonathan Quick eight minutes and 52 seconds into overtime and gave the Canucks a 3-2 victory to launch their Western Conference playoff series.
“I couldn’t tell you who scored,” Quick said after stopping 41 shots Thursday at GM Place. “He got a good shot off and put it where I wasn’t.”
Quick is winless in his last nine starts since March 22, but this defeat was not his fault in any way.
“We’re confident in our goaltending. We weren’t worried about our goaltending coming into the series,” defenseman Jack Johnson said.
“I expect every game to be like this. In overtime, anything can happen.”
As it happened Thursday, Sedin set up behind the net and surveyed his options as the Canucks pressured the Kings.
“They’d been in the zone for almost 30 seconds,” Samuelsson said, “and I just jumped onto the ice.”
That shot by Samuelsson, a veteran of several playoff runs with Detroit, made the Canucks only the third home team to win its opener in the seven playoff series that have started this spring.
“One of the Sedins set it up behind there. He’s been doing that all night. He’s been doing that all year,” Quick said of Henrik, who recorded a league-leading 89 assists this season. “He likes posting up there. And then he passes it off to whoever is open.”
With that play the Kings’ first playoff game ended unhappily, though they found reasons for optimism.
“We competed hard and we had a chance to win and that’s a good steppingstone for a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs for a long time,” forward Ryan Smyth said. “We’re upset that we lost but it’s a long series.”
Nine Kings in Thursday’s lineup were in uniform for their first NHL playoff game: Quick, backup Erik Ersberg, defensemen Johnson and Drew Doughty, and forwards Anze Kopitar, Wayne Simmonds, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Raitis Ivanans.
If they had any jitters they hid it well, displaying commendable poise before a hostile crowd of 18,810 that was the Canucks’ 303rd consecutive home sellout.
The Kings scored first with the aid of a power play that carried over from the first period. Jarret Stoll scored it 54 seconds into the second period, after Kopitar made an excellent pass to Michal Handzus down low and Handzus passed back to Stoll between the faceoff circles for a 25-foot wrist shot.
That lead didn’t last long. Johnson was sent off at 2:06 for delay of game and the Canucks capitalized at 3:09.
They won a faceoff in the Kings’ zone and got the puck to Sami Salo, whose shot from the blue line bounced in front and was whacked by Daniel Sedin before Samuelsson prodded it past Quick.
The Sedins combined to put the Canucks ahead at 8:31 on a world-class play, making the Kings’ shutdown defense pair of Matt Greene and Sean O’Donnell look like statues.
Henrik fed Daniel on the rush and Daniel maneuvered within 12 feet before lifting a backhander off the crossbar and into the net.
The Kings gained a five-minute power play at 11:09, after Vancouver defensemen Andrew Alberts got a major boarding penalty and game misconduct for a dirty hit on Brad Richardson, and they took advantage of that to pull even at 2-2.
Randy Jones made a rare good play to keep the puck in the zone. Brown picked it up along the boards and pivoted before passing down low to Frolov.
The Russian winger relayed it to Fredrik Modin, whose one-timer beat Roberto Luongo to the glove side and silenced the crowd.
Alberts’ hit is sure to be reviewed and could lead to a suspension under the NHL’s new anti-headshots rule.
Luongo faced only 27 shots but was at his acrobatic best about six minutes into overtime when he swiped Johnson’s rebound of a Smyth shot off the goal line. “Definitely I was panicking,” Luongo said.
The Kings are not panicking. Nor should they, and Quick bristled when a Vancouver reporter asked if they had felt they could steal the game.
“We don’t feel like we’re stealing anything,” Quick said. “We think we’re just as good a club as these guys and we proved it all night long. In our mind it’s not really stealing the game it’s winning the game.”
Which they came agonizingly close to doing.