Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks’ power play is performing about as well as one of those North Korean missiles.
And because of it, the Canucks just may crash and burn right out of the National Hockey League playoffs.
The Canucks’ power play not only didn’t score, but it surrendered two short-handed goals Friday night as the Los Angeles Kings skated to a 4-2 win at Rogers Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final series.
Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown scored both of those short-handed goals for the Kings, who now take their commanding lead back to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4.
In their 42-year history, this is the first time the Canucks have dropped the opening two games of a playoff series at home.
Now they are going to have to try and win this series the hard way. The fact the Canucks have lost six of their last seven playoff games does not inspire confidence they are up to the task.
“You have to put these games behind you,” said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “Whether we win or lose, this game is done with so we move on. It will be a big must-win the next game in L.A. and that is our focus right now.”
Game 3 goes at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Staples Center (CBC, Team 1040).
If they need inspiration, the Canucks can look to the Boston Bruins, who lost the first two games of their opening round series last year at home and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
“I thought five-on-five we played well,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “But the power play is just not good enough right now. Not only are we not scoring, we are giving up goals and that can’t happen. That is why we lose the game.”
The Canucks were 0-for-4 on the power play Friday night and are now 0-for-9 for the series.
“Special teams is a big part of our game and we take a lot of pride in it and we didn’t get the job done tonight,” Bieksa said.
No one seems to be able to put their finger on just what is ailing the Vancouver power play.
“It’s tough to say, it’s been a bit of a revolving door there,” Bieksa said. “Somehow, the five guys that are on the ice, we have to find a way to communicate and get on the same page.”
“Our execution is not what it needs to be for it to be effective,” added a frustrated coach Alain Vigneault. “Tonight it was more than ineffective. It cost us at bad times. Those are our best players.”
Goalie Roberto Luongo, for the second straight game, did his best to give his team a chance to win.
With the Kings up 2-1 early in the third he made big saves off Brown and Colin Fraser, but the Canucks couldn’t beat Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick to get the tying goal.
Quick played a strong game as the Canucks peppered him with 48 shots.
“I don’t think I have been in this situation before but like I said we’re not going to feel too sorry for ourselves,” Bieksa said. We’re going to put this game quickly behind us, move to L.A. and get focused for two big road games.”
Jarret Stoll scored a power-play goal at 8:30 of the third to give the Kings a 3-1 lead, jamming the puck under Luongo from the edge of the crease. Trevor Lewis made it 4-1 on a wraparound at 14:51 of the third after a Manny Malhotra giveaway.
Sammy Pahlsson made it 4-2 when he put a backhand past Quick at 16:22 on a rebound off a shot by Keith Ballard.
Brown scored his second short-handed goal of the night at 5:11 of the second period to break a 1-1 tie. Brown was sprung free on a breakaway after Dan Hamhuis couldn’t handle a Ryan Kesler pass at the blue line. Brown beat Luongo with a backhand shot.
The Canucks had tied the game just 17 seconds into the second, when Jannik Hansen tipped in a soft Henrik Sedin floater from the blue line.
The Canucks had some chances late in the period to tie the game. With 1:30 left, Kesler went around L.A. defencemen Rob Scuderi and Drew Doughty but was robbed by Quick.
Brown opened scoring with nine seconds left in the first period after Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler coughed up the puck in his own end during a Canucks’ power play. Kings centre Anze Kopitar intercepted an Edler pass intended for Mason Raymond and skated in on a sprawling Luongo, who managed to get his toe on Kopitar’s attempt. But Brown was able to fire the rebound into a wide-open net.
The goal came with Kings defenceman Willie Mitchell in the penalty box serving a holding minor. Mitchell was also in the box when Brown scored his second short-handed goal.
Vigneault, unhappy with his team’s effort in Game 1, shuffled his forward lines and defensive pairings. Hansen moved up to skate with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows on Vancouver’s top line. Chris Higgins joined Kesler and David Booth on the second line, while Raymond and Maxim Lapierre skated with Sammy Pahlsson on the third line. Andrew Ebbett, Zack Kassian and Malhotra were on Vancouver’s fourth line.
On defence, Hamhuis and Bieksa were reunited, Edler was paired with Sami Salo and Ballard played with Chris Tanev. Ballard played his his first game since suffering a concussion on Feb. 7.
Vancouver Canucks blue after being Dustin Brown’d by L.A. Kings
Brad Ziemer, Vancouver Sun