Kings see double as Canucks tie series with 6-4 win
The Kings and Vancouver Canucks are back to where they started in one sense, even in games after the Canucks scored four times in a furious third-period push Wednesday to wrest a 6-4 victory at Staples Center that sent the series back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Friday tied at 2-2.
But it’s tough to look at this and not think the Canucks have taken the upper hand after twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, effective but not extraordinary in the early going, broke the game open and combined to score a goal and four assists.
Henrik, the NHL scoring champion, scored Vancouver’s fifth goal and his first of the series at 17:08, on a pass from Daniel off a four-on-two created when Wayne Simmonds fell in the Vancouver end and Ryan Smyth was spun out of position and left staring at the twins’ jet fumes.
Ryan Kesler scored into an empty net to clinch it with 17 seconds left to disappoint a Staples Center crowd of 18,322 and the many fans who had seen the Kings win a home playoff game Monday for the first time in eight years and desperately wanted to feel that winning feeling again.
They were denied by Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, regaining some semblance of his top form with a sprawling, on-his-back glove save on an Alexander Frolov breakaway early in the third period while the Kings held a 3-2 lead, and by the double, world-class threats named Sedin.
“That top line picked it up. They scored some pretty goals on us in the third,” Matt Greene said. “It’s something we knew was going to come. And this is when they brought it. Hats off to them.”
The Kings extended their power-play streak to six in building a 2-1 lead early in the second period and even after the Canucks built a 4-3 lead the Kings made it 4-4 at 13:18 on Simmonds’ lunging rebound. But they soon lost their composure and the game.
“I thought we were playing well and we just got away from our game a little bit but that’s exactly what got them to the point to finish third in the West,” Greene said.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick couldn’t be blamed for bending under that onslaught in the third, but neither did he make the kind of momentum-changing save that might have inspired his teammates.
“In order to win a playoff series you need your goalie to make a few big saves for you down the stretch and I wasn’t able to do that for the team,” he said.
The Kings scored first, during a power play, when Drew Doughty backhanded a loose puck that Luongo couldn’t cover at 13:26 of the first period.
Vancouver tied it during a power play of its own, at 3:36 of the second period, when Christian Ehrhoff beat a screened Quick to the stick side with a 30-foot slap shot.
The Kings converted yet another power play to take a 2-1 lead on Dustin Brown’s wicked, 25-foot shot that beat Luongo at 5:56. Their power-play streak ended at six, but that became less important than the fact that Vancouver pulled even at 15:35.
Sean O’Donnell turned the puck over in the neutral zone and promptly went to the bench, leaving the Canucks with a two-on-one break. Former King Pavol Demitra snapped the puck home from about 25 feet out on the right side.
The Kings scored again at 17:09 while the teams were skating four-on-four and a delayed penalty was pending against the Canucks. Simmonds rifled a perfect pass toward the front of the net for Anze Kopitar to redirect past a helpless Luongo and give the Kings a 3-2 lead.
But Vancouver began to take control in the third period and the Kings’
defensive play grew ragged. The Canucks tied it at 7:29 of the third when Mikael Samuelsson, at the inner edge of the right circle, converted a pass from Daniel Sedin, and they took the lead on a power-play goal after the Kings were caught with too many men on the ice. Sami Salo ripped a shot from about 45 feet that Quick probably still hasn’t seen.
The Kings matched that on Simmonds’ goal, but they couldn’t match Henrik Sedin’s feat on the fifth goal.
And so it’s back to Vancouver, where the Kings won Game 2 and must win or face elimination at home on Sunday.
“Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes against that big line,” Greene said. “We’ve got to shut them down and have better success against them. That’s extremely evident after tonight.”
Or there won’t be many tomorrows left this season.