The question was simple: Can the Los Angeles Kings continue to shut down one of the best lines in the NHL and take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series? Wrong answer, bitches! At a time when it looked like the Canucks were simply not going to get it together, we saw the Canucks team that won the Northwest Division make an appearance in the series. Perfect? Far from it... but you can stuff your style points. The playoffs are about clutch performances and finding a way to win. The Canucks did that in a huge way in the 3rd period last night.
Sure the penalty kill is embarrassing. Sure the Shane O'Brien meltdown looked like it might be the beginning of the end for the Canucks. But when Los Angeles took a 3-2 lead in the 3rd, the Canucks big names stood up and wrestled the series back from the Kings. Actually, you could say that the entire effort was the Canucks biggest names. Christian Ehrhoff, Pavol Demitra, Mikael Samuelsson, Sami Salo, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler all scored. These are names you want to and usually see on the scoresheet for a Canucks victory.
There is one other name that needs to be mentioned: Roberto Luongo. There are people still bitching about his performance last night. Those people are the ones who will scream at him for giving up a shutout. It doesn't matter how well he plays. They will criticize him. It's not that they're bad fans. They've just gotten so used to being disappointed by this team and it's goaltenders, that they'd rather lash out than be seen as being overly positive. Let's face it, there was a point in that game where it looked like this season was drawing to a close. And then they killed a penalty.
People looking for the instance that changed the game? It was the penalties that they killed off. Sure the Kings scored goals after that. But it brought them back into a mental state where they felt like they could outplay the Kings. Yes Henrik's goal was a beauty in a season where he was one of the best in the NHL, but every goal had that monumental feel to it. And every time the Kings took the lead, the Canucks had the right answer.
Take this first goal by Ehrhoff, the Canucks are on the PP, and instead of trying the pretty play, they get set up, and Steve Bernier gets in front of the net and becomes a royal pain in the ass. Novel concept, hmm? Great puck movement, and a seeing eye shot from the best offensive Dman in the Canucks lineup.
Another huge moment was the 2nd Canucks goal, because at a moment when I thought we had to finally write off Pavol Demitra ever doing anything right again, he pulls out a frickin' beauty:
Has anyone seen Demitra skate down with that kind of confidence all season? Nope. But in a moment where the Canucks needed a big goal, a veteran stepped up and did what is expected from him, sniped one. Once again the Kings took the lead, and that was the cue for the best third period the Canucks have played all series. Canucks best player in the series hands down has been Mikael Samuelsson, and he came up with another gem to tie it at 3.
Once again, puck movement is the key. The Kings get caught chasing and it looks like the Canucks were on a power play. The patented Sedin slap pass to Samuelsson and it's in the back of the net. At this point the momentum's swung in the Canucks favor, and after a too many men penalty on the Kings, Sami Salo ripped one past Jonathan Quick to take their first lead of the game:
The Kings would tie it up shortly after, on a bad defensive breakdown that allowed Wayne Simmonds to knot it at 4. But instead of deflating them, the Canucks stayed determined. With time winding down, another leader of this team took control, and showed the Kings that they don't know Hank:
Notice anything about that goal? Very similar to the Pavol Demitra goal, I thought. Odd man rush, and like he did against Demitra, Matt Greene chose to play the pass. Especially with Henrik, because that's what he does, right? WRONG ANSWER! The Canucks popped an empty netter from a guy with a little experience with those kinds of goals, Kesler sealing the deal with less than 20 seconds left.
There's still a lot to be fixed. But so many positives. Some penalties killed off. HUGE saves late from Luongo. Signs that not only are the Sedins back in this series, but when they crank up their game the Kings simply do not have an answer for them. Is Los Angeles going to be totally demoralized? Not really, the Kings coaches will have them prepared, something they've done a hell of a job of so far. But the seed of doubt, at long last has been planted.
Friday night is going to be amazing. And for that game, the question will be: Who wants to score first? The Canucks need to stay focused, and do a better job of letting guys like Drew Doughty and Micheal Handzus not draw penalties, continue to simplify the PK, and expand on the things that worked for them.