Third season’s the charm for Handzus
The Kings’ free-agent class of 2007-08 took its share of hits, ripped for not producing and quickly disbanded.
But not completely.
One guy from that class survived, and thrived on the biggest stage, the NHL playoffs. Center Michal Handzus scored twice, both on the power play, and added an assist to help lead the Kings to a 5-3 victory in Game 3 of their playoff series against the Canucks.
The others from that class -- defenseman Tom Preissing and forwards Kyle Calder and Ladislav Nagy -- are long gone. Things started turning around for Handzus, on and off the ice, in his second season with the Kings, having still been fighting the lingering effects of knee surgery when he first got to Los Angeles.
Monday’s all-around performance against Vancouver said it all.
“In his defense, the year before he got here he only played six games,” teammate Anze Kopitar said. “It’s hard after an injury like that. It takes some time to get back and get used to it again, the rhythm. Michal since last year has been one of the key guys for us for sure.”
Not only were there power-play goals from Handzus. But he had the assignment of matching up against the Canucks’ best, the Sedin twins.
“You don’t want to get scored on. It wasn’t perfect, but we’ll take the win,” said Handzus, who had 20 goals and 22 assists in the regular season.
He also said there is no real secret to their power-play success in this series.
“We’re trying to keep it simple,” he said. “Our D-men are shooting the puck. They’re great shooters. And with Ryan [Smyth] in front of the net, it’s a huge help.”
He thought the game turned when the Kings scored their first goal of the game, which made it 1-1 at 11:00 in the first period.
“That helped us for sure. It energized the crowd,” Handzus said. Obviously they came out hard and they gave it to us the first 10 minutes.
“Our starts, all year, we didn’t have good starts. And again, it wasn’t good enough. We’ve got to be ready next game. We need to be better next game, play full 60 minutes.”
What seemed like the longest video review, about six minutes and counting, ended up working out in the Kings’ favor when Daniel Sedin’s apparent goal in the third period was waved off because of a kicking motion.
(Of course, Daniel Sedin scored shortly thereafter. This time, it counted.)
“I don’t know. It was a pretty long wait,” Kopitar said. “But it turned out pretty good for us. I was hoping it was not a goal.
“I looked at the replay, and I thought the guy was stopping more than anything. But it turned out he kicked it in.”
Handzus thought it was good.
“I thought it was a goal,” he said. “I didn’t see the review at all; I thought he was just coming to the net. Obviously it was a break for us.”