The LA Kings haven’t been in the NHL playoffs for 8 years but made up for lost time in their first home playoff game this year. Their opponents were the Vancouver Canucks who finished with a #6 seeding compared to #6 for the Kings despite a couple point difference. After splitting the first 2 games in Vancouver (both in overtime), LA was determined to take the series lead in front of the sell out roaring fans at the Staples Center. The Canucks came out very physical but the final 5-3 outcome was for the Kings as they kept the Sedin twins quiet while chasing star goalie Roberto Luongo after he gave up 4 goals. The last time the teams played in LA was late in the regular season when Luongo gave up 8 goals in that game.
The stars of the game were Michael Handzus scoring 2 power play goals and one assist, Drew Doughty with great defense and a goal and 3 assists and Jack Johnson with 3 assists. Doughty commented on the team’s strong, aggressive play during the post-game interview. “The team has to stay focused, as the series is long from over.” Doughty also said the team has been watching video of what Vancouver does and doesn’t do when they are a man short and they got some wide open lanes today for good scoring chances. “The fans were great and it was great to get that win”.
Vancouver actually took an early lead when Mason Raymond beat Jonathon Quick a bit more than 2 minutes into the game before Doughty evened the score on the power play. The Kings came out on fire in the second period as Handzus scored his 2 power play goals in a row and then Brad Richardson stole the puck (or you can call it a giveaway by defenseman Aaron Rome) and fired a wrist shot past Luongo. That is when Andrew Raycroft replaced the Olympic winning goalie as chants from the frenzy crowd of “Lu-on-go, Lu-on-go” were stirring. Raycroft made some key saves and Mikael Samuelsson scored his 4th goal of the series after a beautiful setup by Ryan Kessler.
The third period had some interesting moments with a goal that was disallowed after a long review delay that saw Daniel Sedin kick the puck in. It didn’t take long as Daniel scored moments later to make it 4-3. Ryan Smith sent a slap shot from the left wing past Raycroft about 5 minutes later to give the Kings the 2 goal advantage and final scoring margin. The Sedin twins need to get untracked for the Canucks to have any hope in this series. Leading goal scorer Alexander Burrows has been dropped to the second line with his unproductive offense so far. Henrik Sedin, who led the league in scoring this year, is looking for his team to come back strong after this tough loss.
Anze Kopitar didn’t score (after getting the overtime game winner in game 2) but said, “It was a total team effort tonight and the 2 goals by Handzus were huge”. Coach Terry Murry said “I was happy with the team’s performance and hope for another effort like that on Wednesday back at the Staples Center for Game 4.” For more information and tickets, visit www.kings.nhl.com