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NHL Playoffs: Kings Steal Two Games In Vancouver, Lead 2-0

Evan Budrovich |
April 14, 2012 | 4:02 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Goaltender Jonathan Quick has powered the Kings defense through the first two playoffs games. (Burns!/Creative Commons)
Goaltender Jonathan Quick has powered the Kings defense through the first two playoffs games. (Burns!/Creative Commons)

Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Kings are starting to solidify their stance on this series.

When Trevor Lewis scored at the 14:51 point in the third period basically ending the game giving the Kings a 4-1 lead, the sell-out crowd at Rogers Arena was speechless. The Kings did what no one expected or predicted. Sure analysts, such as Barry Melrose and John Buccigross picked the Kings in seven, but did anyone have LA up 2-0 heading back to Staples?

The LA Kings are prime for a deep playoff run this season, and these first two games have highlighted many of the strengths the Kings posses as this series progresses. What does this mean for the Kings’ faithful and those die-hard fans viewing from the watch party at the Hooters in West Covina? The Kings finally have the mix of experience and youth necessary to defeat the beasts of the West and surpass their big brother Vancouver. 

This series is far from over, and the success the Kings have experienced may be short-lived, but for today, let’s relish this situation. The LA Kings have not been up 2-0 in a series since 1968. The Kings, who were hot coming into the playoffs, blew leads in both games against San Jose at the end of the season and were forced to settle for eighth place. The Kings have relished the underdog role and are tacking their hard-hitting, scrappy offense on the road and playing playoff hockey.

Let’s look at the previous matchup in 2010 and what led to Vancouver’s victory in six games. When the Kings and Canucks met in 2010, two major things were different from this season. The Kings were young and had trouble stopping the Canucks. In Games 1 and 2 of that series, the Kings forced overtime and split the two contests. Although the Kings prospered in one, the penalty kill for the Kings was shaky and Jonathan Quick was not playing up to his standards as a future Vezina trophy finalist. Once returning to LA the defense was exposed, allowing 22 goals over the next four games and only winning one of them. Quick and the defense seemed passive and allowed the Sedin Brothers to bang around the glass and impose their will offensively. 

Add Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Dustin Penner and even Brad Richardson, and things began to change for Los Angeles. The experience of Richards and Carter, specifically on the second line, has paid dividends through the first two games of this series. The Kings are the tougher team between the whistles and do not chirp after every call. Vancouver has lost its composure during these two games and has acted like the team that is the eighth seed. Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver is searching for consistency on offense and need to score on the power play. 

Let’s now address each game and provide reasons for why the Kings were so successful and are now heading home up 2-0. 

Game 1 in Vancouver, Wednesday

LA Kings 4, Vancouver 2:

The first minute was controlled by the Kings who had three great scoring chances against Roberto Luongo. The Canucks responded when Alex Burrows put in a  deflection into the back of the net at the 4:17 mark of the first period. Here we go again! Is the same old playoff story for the Kings? But goaltender Jonathan Quick responded and made 10 straight saves. Quick ended the night stopping 24 of 26 shots and took control of the defense. 

The offense took over for the Kings and forced eight Vancouver penalties. Two clearing penalties and a snowing penalty against Ryan Kessler were among some of the weirder penalties that adversely affected Vancouver. The team was on its heels all night and allowed LA to capitalize on two power play goals. 

This constant offensive pressure gave the defense some much-needed breaks and allowed Rob Scuderi and Drew Doughty to attack in the offensive zone on power play chances. Ryan Kessler and Mike Richards had many confrontations throughout the night leading to many scrums and even three team fights. Kessler, who tried to take out his frustration, committed a snowing penalty against Quick. The penalty was converted into a power play goal by, you guessed it, Mike Richards, and the Kings were seemingly in control.

Then the youth of the Kings came to backfire again and gave the tired Canucks second life. With eight seconds left in the second period Alexander Edler scored a cheap goal tying the game at two heading into the second intermission. The third period was stressful, to say the least. Vancouver, who had been outshot 29-14, had given up eight penalties and had played passively all night, was tied with five minutes to go in the game. 

But when the game seemed destined for another OT thriller, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner saved the Kings. Mike Richards passed the puck up ice, which was passed off the skate of Carter right into the stick of Penner, who finished the goal and gave LA the lead for good. These three men were key to the Kings victory in Game 1 and were able to cure the demons of early postseason failure. Richards combined for three points and Carter and Penner contributed to the penultimate goal. Dustin Brown then added an empty net goal in the final minute and the Kings left the Rogers Center feeling sky high with the 4-2 victory. 

Game 2 in Vancouver, Friday

LA Kings 4, Vancouver 2:

Dustin Brown's two short-handed goals led the Kings to a Game 2 victory. (bridgetds/Creative Commons)
Dustin Brown's two short-handed goals led the Kings to a Game 2 victory. (bridgetds/Creative Commons)
Game 2 in Vancouver was another sell-out crowd and a must-win game for Vancouver. But who came to the rescue for the Kings all night? Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick. Quick ended the night with 48 saves and Doughty contributed 28 rough minutes to help solidify the Kings defense. 

Before the series, the power play and penalty kill were emphasized as strengths for the Kings, and on this night the Kings flexed their muscles and even capitalized on penalty kills. The Kings scored on the power play with Jarrett Stoll’s third-period goal putting LA up for good 3-1. The Kings ended the night 1-4 on the power play, but it was their penalty kill that came up huge in Game 2. 

Vancouver went 0-5 on the penalty which makes them 0-10 in the series. The aggressive defense of the Kings pressured Vancouver’s strikers all night and put them in risky situation forcing turnovers all night. These turnovers cost the Canucks vitally when Anze Kopitar stole a loose puck late in the first period and put a great shot on Luongo that was deflected away and sent back in by Captain Dustin Brown. 

The key to this strong defense was the play of Jonathan Quick. Quick’s previously mentioned 48 saves and strong play in the third period with 22 saves gave the Kings defensemen confidence to swarm the puck and play extra aggressively. 

The Kings provided the dagger with their special teams at the 5:17 mark of the second period. Earlier that period, the Canucks scored and looked prime to take the lead on the power play, themselves. Tied at two, Dustin Brown took the turnover and drove to the net with two defensemen chasing quickly. Brown made a sick move around the keeper and scored his second short-handed goal of the evening giving the Kings a 2-1 lead. 

This combination of special teams efficiency has helped the Kings all series and was the key to their victories in Games 1 and 2. Brown’s two short-handed goals make him the first player in Kings’ postseason history to accomplish the feat. In addition, his assist on the third Kings goal gave him three points on the night. Brown, who had been tossed around in trade rumors earlier in the season, stepped up his game in the second half of the season and came up clutch when the Kings needed it most in Game 2. 

What’s Next?

Game 3 in Los Angeles, Sunday: 

In order for the Kings to maintain their momentum from the first two contests, the offense needs to continue to apply pressure on Vancouver. Cory Schneider is assumed to get the start, so the Kings need to attack him and make it just as difficult as they did against Luongo. If the Kings continue to capitalize on power plays and pressure the Canucks when they have the puck, this series could end very quickly. Henrik Sedin is expected to return before the series concludes, so expect some firepower once the Sedin brothers are united on the rink. That should reload Vancouver’s power play attack. 

In Game 1, the newcomers Richards, Carter and Penner all came up huge for the Kings. In Game 2, the big four from the Kings playoff run in 2010 against Vancouver made the plays necessary to win. Quick, Brown, Kopitar and Doughty played fantastic and allowed the Kings to steal another game in Vancouver setting up an all important showdown on Sunday Night. This combination of veterans and young guns is exactly with GM Dean Lombardo wanted. Now, they finally appear to be meshing during the playoffs, when it matters most. 

Reach Evan by email.



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