Then came the third period and an intense hockey game suddenly erupted on Saturday night at Rogers Arena.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene got hit with a puck and his skate was soon bloodied. He left the game, came back to play and watched his team lose it with 1:23 remaining as Brad Richardson, the former King, gave the Canucks a 2-1 win and helped Vancouver avoid official playoff elimination.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick lost it too after the Richardson goal because of a missed interference call and earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Kings defensive pair on the ice were Slava Voynov, who scored in the second period, and Andrew Campbell.
“It's frustrating,” Greene said. “We've got to start locking it down. It's two third periods where we had a lead. We had a lead in San Jose. We've got to be able to lock these down and go into the third period and win those games.”
Said Richardson: “It was nice to see Quickie smash his stick like that. I liked that.”
Typically, Greene downplayed the Bloody Saturday moment.
“Just got cut — that's it,” he said. “Got hit with a shot.”
Said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter: “We played a hard game, really solid. Obviously, we were a couple of guys short on the back end. All those penalties in the third took a little steam out of us, then Greener going down.”
Considering all the penalties in the third period, was Sutter surprised there was no interference call on the winning goal?
Quick does have a temper and his competitive streak is what helps him be an elite-level goaltender. But smashing his stick on the goal to draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty ultimately negated any chance the Kings might have for a comeback. But Sutter was quick to defend him, saying: “It happens so rarely with him. It wasn't that big a deal.”
The Canucks have struggled against all three California teams this year, so Richardson was pleased that they were finally able to beat his ex-team.
"We haven't been great in our division and especially those California teams, we've really struggled with," Richardson said. "They're a tough team, so it gives us maybe a little bit of a building block when we play Anaheim [on Monday]. They're a good team. It's kinda nice. I mean, we've got to start winning our divisional games if we want to make the playoffs.
This game featured Campbell's NHL debut for the Kings. His years of near misses, tedious bus rides and one excruciating waiting game faded away on Saturday morning.
Sutter summoned the 26-year-old defenseman and told him that he would be making his NHL debut, against the Vancouver Canucks. Televised on "Hockey Night in Canada," no less.
"I got like a shiver right down my body, ‘Wow, this is going to be the night,'” Campbell said after the morning skate.
The team let Campbell take a couple of turns by himself just before the pregame skate on Saturday night, a nice touch.
“That was pretty cool of the guys they were telling me to get out there,” he said. “Something I'll definitely remember I didn't complicate things. There were definitely butterflies when you step on the ice. It's your first shift. You have that feeling in your stomach.”
Campbell was drafted by the Kings in the third round in 2008 (74th overall) and put down roots with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H. He was named the Monarchs captain at the start of this season.
Of Campbell’s debut, Sutter said: “We had to get minutes out of all four lines and all six defensemen. We finished a long stretch of games and we were playing a pretty good hockey club, a veteran team, and you had to get minutes out of them.
"For the most part, he was solid. It’s what you expect of him. He’s not a kid. You just have to get the puck and move it. I’m sure the pace was an adjustment for him."