It had been eight long years for playoff hockey to return to Los Angeles. But despite making some noise earlier in the first round, the Los Angeles Kings’ hopes for the Stanley Cup were dashed when the Vancouver Canucks continued their late-game mastery to clinch the series in Los Angeles.
As was the story in Game 4, the Kings came out with a full head of steam and got an early lead. But the veteran Canucks continued to be patient, and eventually turned the momentum, forcing the Kings out of their gritty gameplan and capitalizing on small mistakes.
It was the final toll of the bell for the Kings, who weren’t picked by many to make the playoffs. And the Kings didn’t go down without a fight. They actually led the way heading into the third period, hoping to force a Game 7. But the faster, hungrier and more disciplined Canucks proved to be too much for the youthful exuberance of the Kings.
Alexander Frolov finally got the playoff monkey off his back, scoring his very first goal in the postseason, when his strong wraparound attempt rides up Roberto Luongo’s stick and in. The assembled throngs at Staples erupted as the red light of shame shone down on Luongo. It took six games, but Alex finally scored on that wraparound.
Maybe he should have tried something else earlier in the series. The guys over at Cycle Like the Sedins tweeted :”Alex Frolov is like that guy on NHL ’10 who keeps going for the wraparound move over and over.”
The Kings did a tremendous job focusing on the Sedin Brothers through the first two periods of the game, holding them without a shot. The Kings were able to cycle the puck better in Game 6, something that they had gotten away from the past two games.
The story for the Kings seemed to be their lack of production with the man advantage. Dustin Brown was able to draw two penalties, and Anze Kopitar added a third, but the Kings power play unit, which had been their bread-and-butter unit, failed to take advantage.
Roberto Luongo had another series-defing save, this time on Ryan Smyth, whose shot would’ve gone in had the hockey gods deemed it so. Luongo, on his side and making what Jim Fox referred to as a”breakdancing” save, snapped the puck out of the air to thwart the Kings once again. It was a huge save that helped lift the Canucks, who struck minutes later.
Brown gets called for interference, putting Vancouver on the power play. Steve Bernier scores with traffic infront with under 10 seconds of the man advantage to tie the game. Bernier had actually screened Quick, and the puck went off his back.
Dennis Bernstein, senior writer for the Fourth Period tweeted: “Test of character for #LAKings. On heels of great #Luongo save Bernier ties itfor #Canucks. You can feel some energy leave the building.”
The energy had also shifted to Vancouver after the Bernier goal. But just as Stick in the Box was coming off the best shift of the night for the Sedins, the Canucks take an offensive zone penalty, when Brother Daniel tripped Brown. But Vancouver showed some testicular fortitude and held off the Kings for the third straight time, despite some good looks by L.A.
But the Kings are still buzzing, and the hard work paid off when Drew Doughty scored on a slap shot from inside the blue line, when his shot ricochets off of Alexander Burrows’ skate, just enough to alter its path past Luongo. to give L.A. their second lead of the game. Doughty know leads all defenseman in playoff goals so far. Not only that, but he was played 20 minutes in two periods.
Late in the period has proven dangerous for the Kings, as they have a tendency to become lax at the end of shifts, especially as the Canucks are mounting a charge. Quick stopped a dangerous puck ouside his crease to halt such a surge by Stick in a Box late in the second.
Although his puckhandling left much to be desired. Chris Kontos from The Royal Half tweeted: “Jon Quick needs a refund from that Marty Turco Stickhandling School he went to last summer.”
After two periods, the Kings held the lead. Thy led in shots (26-11) and hits (28-24), and both of their goals came even strength. Since they only had five even strength goals in the first five games, it appeared that they have made the adjustment.
But the Canucks too much for the Kings in the third period once again. Kevin Bieksa goes tweeners on Quick from a bad angle to tie the game. The Kings were forcing Vancouver to shoot from the outside, but that shot went through. With that goal, the Kings have now been outscored in third period 8-2 this series. That stop by Luongo on Smyth in the second period weighs heavy on the mind.
Bieksa slashed Jarett Stoll to give the Kings their fourth PP of the night. But everything is going the Canucks way, as they proceed to kill it off. With that PK, the Canucks raised their percentage to 61.5 percent for the postseason. It’s still last in the league, but have killed off 12 of their last 13 in their last two games.
Frolov had a breakaway with little pressure on him as he skated in. Even with a bunch of time in front of Luongo, he is denied on one of L.A.’s few chances. The Kings had one again gotten away from their game plan, and look a little scattered. They keep missing outlet passes and the chain had broken on their cycle.
Vancouver scores for the second time in the period with two minutes left, when the Art Ross winner Henrik Sedin scored to make it 3-2, deflating the once hopeful crowd. As time winds down, Terry Murray pulled Quick as the Kings tried desperately to put another goal on the board.
But Drew Doughty left his position to join the offense, leaving the Kings wide open for a turnover. And it’s the Canucks’ regular season leading goal-scorer, Alex Burrows, who finally pots a goal for Vancouver in these playoffs. The final buzzer sounds, drawing the a close the Kings’ postseason.
The players lined up for the traditional handshake at center ice, and the Kings skated off the ice, leaving only the captain Dustin Brown to talk with Fox Sports’ Heidi Androl. Brown said what you would expect from the captain, but his words were hopeful.
“It’s tough to be positive about it right now,” he said. “but sometimes you have to lose before you can win.”
The Kings’ future is bright, and they should be able to build off of this next season. Kings fans should take solace in the fact that the kids got six games of valuable playoff experience against an extremely competitive team. I’ll write more about it in a later post. But for now, I’m going to sleep it off.
Roberto Luongo made 30 saves while carrying third-seeded Vancouver through the Sedin twins’ shotless first two periods, and Kevin Bieksa tied it early in the third. Yet the series seemed headed for its third overtime game until Sedin snapped a shot past Jonathan Quick and one-upped his brother, NHL scoring champion Henrik.
• LA Times: Kings take stock of what worked and what didn’t
The team that was 29-0-2 this season when leading after two periods lostGames 4 and 6 after squandering third-period leads at home. The Kings’goaltending wasn’t good enough — Jonathan Quick won only two of his last14 starts, including the playoffs — and their lack of speed on defensewas glaring when the Canucks pushed the pace. Their power play wasexceptional, but their five-on-five scoring was inadequate, reflecting alack of depth, especially up the middle.
“There’s an easy answer: Two of the best players in the league did it,” Kings Coach Terry Murray said. “The Sedin line was tremendous. They won the series. They won the game and each of those games you’re talking about made the difference. That’s what the best players are supposed to do.”
• LA Kings: Kings eliminated by Canucks
This team, with the youngest group of core players in the NHL, was widely expected to miss the playoffs. Few expected that they would reach the 100-point plateau for only the third time in franchise history and contend for home-ice advantage in the first round.
• NHL.com: Canucks oust Kings on late Daniel Sedin goal
With the top half of the net begging for Smyth to drill it, Luongostacked his pads and made a catching-glove save that might leave Smythconsulting with a sports psychologist all summer.
They said it
“Definitely. We have to. Like I said, this is a first for a lot of guys,and we have to learn from this experience. We had a chance to securethe series and we let it slip by. That’s something we have to learnfrom. In a year’s time, if we’re sitting here having this sameconversation, then we haven’t learned anything at all. That’s thedifference. It didn’t happen this year, but this series, right now,might be the turning point for this team. Come this time next year, wemight not be having this conversation at all. It’s a matter of what wecan take from this series.” – Dustin Brown, on learning from thisexperience.
“I felt that we were doing a pretty good job there. I didn’t think that they were getting too many unbelievable chances. They got a couple goals, obviously, but I thought that we were keeping them to the perimeter and not giving them too many great chances. It’s just unfortunate that they went in, and we’ve just kind of got to forget about it now.” – Drew Doughty, on losing third-period leads in the playoffs.
“He told me I had a great year, a great season and a great series. It means a lot coming from a guy like that. He battles all year round, and he is really respected in the league. He has been through a lot, so it means a lot.” – Jonathan Quick, on a postgame talk with Ryan Smyth.
“I guess I’m from the older school in that sense, because I do believe in that. Going back a few years, there were some tremendous hockey teams that kept on winning. They didn’t share it with anybody else, talking about the Oilers I guess, in particular, most recently, and Detroit. They don’t seem to want to relinquish that championship. You do have to go through adversity. There are difficult times and you’ve got to take a lot away from a series like this. Again, the one thing I did say to the team, these young guys in particular, is that this is a wonderful experience for your future. Again, come back to it, revisit it in a few days and think about what you just went through, to be able to draw some positives and some things that are going to benefit you as an athlete, as a player, in the future.” – Terry Murray, on whether he believes that a young team has to learn to win by losing.