LOS ANGELES -- Netminder Cory Schneider was excellent and Daniel Sedin made an immediate impact for the Vancouver Canucks, even though he was playing in his first game since he suffered a concussion four weeks ago.
Schneider, Daniel Sedin and an improved power play were the main reasons the Canucks finally broke through for their first positive result of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, a 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on Wednesday.
Vancouver avoided becoming the first Presidents' Trophy-winning team to be swept in the first round since the current playoff format was put in place in 1992-93.
But can the Canucks beat the stingy Kings three more times next week? Can the Canucks become only the fourth team in Stanley Cup history to overcome a three-game playoff deficit? Or are they going home to die an unexpected first-round death in Game 5 on Sunday after coming so close to claiming a championship 10 months ago?
"We had to win," said the redheaded Schneider, who made 43 saves for his first career NHL post-season victory.
"It didn't matter how we did it. We just had to win."
The Canucks overcame a dismal first period and escaped with a 2-1 lead following 40 minutes, thanks to some outstanding goaltending from Schneider during a Kings power play late in the second period.
"That's what a goalie is there for, especially on the road," said Schneider, who also stopped a Dustin Brown penalty shot early in the third period.
"You have to come up with some big saves early on and give your guys a chance to get into the game, get into a rhythm and get comfortable on the road. I thought our second and third periods were better and we got stronger as the game went on."
Goaltending has not been a problem for the Canucks in this series. But Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault, whose job also is on the line, made a difficult decision to play Schneider again rather than go back to the Canucks' high-paid No. 1 in Roberto Luongo, who played in the first two games.
By choosing Schneider, the speculation immediately began that the Canucks, as an organization, has decided it will keep Schneider and will try to trade Luongo in the summer.
Luongo has a no-trade clause and will dictate his next address, but the Canucks will not be able to get as much in return as they would have with Schneider because Luongo's long-term deal still has 10 years remaining with a salary cap hit of $5.33 million US.
"We needed a few of our guys to elevate their performance and Schneider came up real big for us," Vigneault said. "He gave us a chance in the first period when our guys were a little bit tight and not as quick as far as moving the puck and doing the right things.
"He gave us a chance to get our legs and find our hands and, after that, I thought we played pretty good."
The Canucks played like a team that didn't want to force a fifth game in the first period. They were thoroughly outplayed. A back-checking miscue from Vancouver's Mason Raymond gave Kings centre Anze Kopitar enough room to put his club up 1-0.
But the Canucks rebounded in the second period to score twice. First, defenceman Alex Edler scored on a power play, thanks to a screen from Ryan Kesler. Then, Kevin Biesksa scored a similar goal.
The 2-1 advantage was the Canucks' first lead in the series since the first period of Game 1, when an Alex Burrows goal held up for just over nine minutes before the Kings tied the game.
When Henrik Sedin scored another power-play goal in the third period to give the Canucks a 2-for-17 mark through four games, Vancouver did something it was unable to do in its previous 11 playoff games -- score three goals in regulation.
Not since Game 4 of the Western Conference final last May, when the Canucks dumped the San Jose Sharks 4-2, had Vancouver been able to turn up their offensive game in the playoffs.
They struggled in the Stanley Cup final last spring with only eight goals in seven games against the Boston Bruins. They failed to muster much offence in the first three games against the Kings. Did Daniel Sedin, who assisted on his brother's goal, make that much of a difference?
"It was nice to see [Daniel], as it was to see [Henrik] back to the way he can play," Vigneault said.
"Both of those guys together are such great players and they proved that tonight, even though Daniel hadn't practised a lot in the last little while here.
"They came out and had a stellar performance tonight."
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