Canucks blast Kings for series lead
Mikael Samuelsson scored twice to push his NHL-leading playoff total to seven goals and added an assist as the Vancouver Canucks put together their best game of the playoffs with a 7-2 home victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.
Steve Bernier also scored twice for the Canucks, with linemate Pavol Demitra finishing with a goal and two assists. Daniel Sedin had a goal and an assist, with Alex Edler rounding out Vancouver's scorers.
"We wanted to come out with a good start and we did that, and we said every intermission we have to keep going and [play] a 60-minute game and we did," Samuelsson told Hockey Night in Canada.
Vancouver leads the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final 3-2. The Canucks are ahead for the first time since after Game 1 and will have a chance to finish off the Kings at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6 p.m. PT).
After Bernier scored to open the scoring nine minutes into the game, the Kings only managed to be on even terms for a span of three minutes. They made the score 1-1 on a Michal Handzus goal, the 10th power-play marker of the series for Los Angeles.
Vancouver scored the next four to break open the game and chase Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, to the delight of the GM Place crowd. The Canucks have scored 11 of the last 14 goals in what had been a tightly contested series, building off the momentum of a third-period comeback in Game 4.
"The big difference is our goaltending was giving us big stops [earlier in the series]," said Kings coach Terry Murray. "You can't sugarcoat that, the goaltending wasn't good enough here tonight, [Quick] had a tough night."
Roberto Luongo did his part, making some key stops among his 24 saves when the game was still close.
Dustin Brown forced Luongo to make a big stop six minutes into the game and it would be the Canucks to strike first just under three minutes later.
Kyle Wellwood just missed a shot from the slot, but the miss bounced off the end boards and to Bernier on the right side to deposit before Quick could react.
Luongo appeared in top form after Jack Johnson's power-play blast from the point, but seconds later Handzus from behind the Vancouver net sent a puck off Canucks defender Christian Ehrhoff and behind the goalie with just over five minutes left in the opening period.
"It was a fortunate bounce on their part that ended in the back of our net but our guys battled through that one, didn't let it affect them, and hopefully that will help us build a little bit of confidence there and keep doing the job," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
Forward Ryan Kesler helped force a turnover to help Vancouver regain the lead late in the first. Jannik Hansen got a touch in before Edler snapped a shot off the post and into the net on Quick's short side.
The Canucks had the Kings on the run just before the period ended on the power play, but Quick made a pad save on Samuelsson and Demitra rang a point shot off the post.
Vancouver kept pressing in the second, and after Sami Salo and Wellwood couldn't convert, Daniel Sedin beat Quick on a wraparound play set up by a clean face-off win.
Quick moved too early off his post on the play, allowing Sedin to sneak the puck through.
"I think some of the early goals there, he was off his angle, he was flat in his net," said Murray.
Luongo kept it a two-goal lead on the very next shift with a pad save on Justin Williams, who had been a healthy scratch the previous two games of the series.
It was all Vancouver after that.
Demitra missed a tremendous chance to be the one to get Vancouver's fourth when he missed the net on a power play, but Samuelsson was on target with a snapshot that beat Quick high.
"I don't know, I wish I knew that," Samuelsson said when asked about his goal-scoring spurt. "I'm playing with confidence and getting a bigger role and I'm having fun right now."
Henrik Sedin notched his second assist on the play, which led to Erik Ersberg's arrival in net for the Kings.
Kevin Bieksa and Kesler took penalties in succession to give Los Angeles a chance to boost their power-play stats on a 5-on-3.
Los Angeles was off-target during the 28 seconds in which they had a two-man advantage, and the likes of Mason Raymond and Shane O'Brien did effective penalty killing when the Canucks were one down.
Without his stick, Alex Burrows shuffled the puck down the ice to kill some time and Luongo made the lone save that was required of him.
The Canucks scored another early in the third, with Demitra finally getting his goal after several good scoring chances on a short-side slapper past Ersberg's blocker.
"When Pavol competes the way he did tonight, the way he did the last two games, you can see how useful a player he is, and that line did a real solid job for us," said Vigneault.
Kings defenceman Matt Greene drove to the net on his backhand to set up Fredrik Modin's third of the series just 24 seconds later, but Vancouver soon poured it on.
Samuelsson notched his second with a power-play volley from the left circle at 6:31, which prompted Kings coach Terry Murray to re-insert Quick. All he got for his troubles was Bernier's shot to beat him for the final goal of the game midway through the period.
Ersberg stopped just two of the four shots he faced.
Vigneault kept the Sedins off the ice after two fights broke out late. O'Brien tangled with Kings forward Wayne Simmonds, while Vancouver's Rick Rypien appeared to injure Richard Clune during their scrap.
Murray didn't appreciate O'Brien riling up the crowd after his fight, calling him "a clown." Vigneault countered by arguing that Simmonds has been taunting the Canucks throughout the series.