Luongo, schmongo. In their first playoff home win since April 27, 2002 against the Colorado Avalanche, the Kings’ special teams battered Canucks’ goalie Roberto Luongo and held on for the 5-3 win in regulation.
The Kings went 3-for-3 in power play opportunities with goals by Drew Doughty 11:00 in the first period and two by Michal Handzus at 4:06 and 11:31 in the second period.
“We’re moving the puck very crisply,” Kings’ head coach Terry Murray said. “We’ve got traffic. We’ve got shots. We’ve got good chemistry going on right now. And we’re having good results because of that.”
But things didn’t start well for the Kings. Despite the electric atmosphere by the 18,264 standing room only crowd at Staples Center, they gave up an early goal by Mason Raymond 2:09 into the game. With all of the Canucks on the left side of the zone and all of the Kings on the right, it was a goal seen a mile away.
“It’s one of those things we knew they were going to come hard,” Anze Kopitar said. “They have some physical guys.”
Although he conceded, “Maybe the first couple of shifts we got caught up in the moment.”
While it was no surprise the Kings would be physical, the fact that Vancouver was just as physical was surprising given that they were in the bottom of the league with hits. However each team tallied 22 hits none more devastating than the one Alexander Edler put on Ryan Smyth that left Smyth stumbling off the ice.
“My leg went numb for a split second,” Smyth said. “I’m fine. It just came back. It was nothing serious.”
Also surprising was the normally surehanded Canucks got sloppy at times. In the second period trying to get the puck out of their zone, defenseman Aaron Rome was stripped by Brad Richardson who shot the puck past a stunned Luongo for the Kings 4-1 lead 13:21 in the period. Canucks’ head coach Alain Vigneault had seen enough and did something he didn’t do on April 1 after Luongo gave up eight goals: he pulled Luongo in favor of Andrew Raycroft.
“It was time to make a change,” Vingeault said while reassuring everyone that Luongo is his guy for Game 4.
The Kings made it interesting down the stretch giving up a goal to Mikael Samuelsson 14:53 in the second and what appeared to be a Daniel Sedin goal 3:06 in the third period to make it a 4-3 game. After a lengthy video review, it was determined that Daniel Sedin made a kicking motion to put the puck in the net disallowing the goal.
“I think it was a good goal, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what I think,” Vigneault said.
“From my point of view [Daniel] comes in and hits the outside of his skate,” twin brother Henrik said. “Very questionable.”
However the overturned goal didn’t dissuade Daniel from having another go at it 1:12 later quieting down the Staples Center crowd.
Smyth showing no ill effects of his earlier hit in the first period cemented the game with a strange knuckleball shot that grazed the skate of Canucks’ defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and flew right over the shoulder of goalie Raycroft – a “lucky goal” as characterized by Henrik Sedin.
“It was nice to see it go in,” Smyth said. “They were starting to press at the time.”
Lucky or not, it’s the Kings who have the 2-1 advantage in the series. It’s the Kings who went 3-for-3 on power plays and killed all four penalties they faced allowing only two shorthanded shots on goal.
Drew Doughty with his four points tied a Kings playoff record for a defenseman – Paul Coffey had four points on April 20, 1992 against the Edmonton Oilers. Also the last time the Kings led a series 2-1 was the 1993 Campbell Conference Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs which the Kings won in seven.