Yet with a regulation win in this one, not only would the Canucks restore that little pocket of breathing space they have in the playoff race, but they would put the Kings in a bit of a spot themselves. They are heading out East to face the Metro division teams on a huge five gamer, where they play all the New York teams, as well as the Hawks and Wild.
You could tell as this game unfolded early that the Kings might have thought that they would be once again victorious against their own personal divisional chew toy. They came out with good early pressure, and even put the puck in the net.
It was off a rebound, as a puck was high in the air, and the refs did not even wait for a replay, so obviously over the cross bar was Carter's stick upon contact. Maybe they thought that was a harbinger. It was not. The Canucks came to work in this one.
That the pressure that was building was broken by the first of many very solid shifts by Bo Horvat's line should come as a surprise to no one. On this shift, it was Hansen, with two quick shots, that broke the momentum. The Kings had a decent period the rest of the way, but the Canucks were slightly better in the opening period, outshooting the hosts 13-11, outhitting them 16-15, and outblocking the Kings 7-5. That 8-4 deficit at the face off circle after twenty minutes was a bit troubling though. The Kings, ( like most teams, obviously, though they seem to thrive on it ) were able to break the Canuck pressure after faceoff wins with regularity.
Of course, it was the Kings' captain with a controversial play that helped their cause early in the second. Now, not so much his hit, though it was a little high and near the head. No, it was the penalty that was called on the response that had a "taint" to it. It was called roughing, but it was not anywhere in the neighborhood of that. Oh well, the Canucks are 3rd in the NHL on the PK. They got this, right ?
Well, losing the draw did not help. Doughty set up Gaborik, and his shot was one where he had a lot of time. But the decisive factor was the slightest of tips off of Tanev's shin pad. Edler's partial screen did not help either, as Lack probably did not see much of it. Credit the Kings for the execution, but it felt a little cheap ( and maybe a bit of "here we go again" ) as the home team opened the scoring just :24 into the second. The Canucks responded well. How well ? They did not allow another shot for almost 8 minutes. On one of the few, Tanev blocked a Doughty shot, and missed only one shift after it went off his knee. He would not be the only one to pay the price tonight.
The Canucks deserved a tying goal, and what a goal it was : ( in the highlights below )
The pass from Bieksa was pretty nice, but look at that aerial from Vrbata to Bonino. The hand to eye coordination to whack a bouncing puck in the perfect spot was pretty amazing as well. A great play all around to tie the game up 1-1.
Some ugly is always going permeate a game that means so much, between teams that simply dislike each other. Perhaps the ugliness that followed was prefaced a bit with the kerfuffle that resulted from the Quick and H Sedin entanglement. For the record, the goalie was a bit of an ass ( as usual, Quick is a hothead ) to start it all off, as the puck was loose as Henrik dived for it. The rest ? The Kings should expect no less when three guys are assaulting their captain on the ice. The Burrows UFC style takedown on Toffoli was pretty effective, and noticeable. As was Eddie Lack at centre ice. I have a feeling The Stork would have handled Quick, hothead or no. Longer reach...
The rest of the period, there were a few chances and a few saves, but really, let's use a few words of column space to point out how horrible that dive was by Dustin Brown with about 4:30 ish left. Seriously. A simple dump in, and the defenseman stood him up as usual. The arms akimbo, almost 360 degree flip in the air in response had better draw a response ( and fine ) from the Diving Committee. Atrocious.
The Canucks were the better team again in the second, this time with a 13-7 edge in shots. The Kings came back to take a 29-27 edge in hits after two periods, but the really impressive stat was the Canucks having a 17-16 edge in the face off circle at this point. Bo Horvat being 6 of 8 after two, and the Canucks going 13-8 as a group in response to the thrashing they saw at the dot in the first twenty was part of how they were able to control the play a bit better than the Kings in the middle frame.
The third period, the Canucks continued to push the play, and had some early chances. So did the Kings. Drew Doughty went on one of those rushes he likes to do, and as he was checked, he slashed Dorsett's stick in two to give the Canucks a power play. They had a chance or two, but when Burrows whiffed on a rebound, Tyler Toffoli had a chance to get a shorty. Eddie Lack stoned him ( twice, he got a shot off on the rebound ), and perhaps the young man was pouting.
Well, too freaking bad kid. The cross check to Burrows ( the guy who planted him earlier ) was dirty, dirty, dirty. Burrows went into the boards in horrifying fashion, and laid limp for a bit. It looked like he was seriously injured. It was worthy of the five and a game, and the Kings might want to check Manchester for his replacement for a couple games ( as least ) afterwards, if there is any NHL justice. Even if Burrows came back with a three minutes left in the period. I know it is Burrows, and he is not the committee's fave. But that was pretty bad.
The Canucks had a two man advantage for about :50, and they cashed it in on a very skillful play by Radim Vrbata. After an Edler point shot went wide, the carom off the boards went to VrSniper. The ohhh so skillful part was how he kicked it up to the stick and buried it just inside the post while standing on the goal line. In one motion. I know guys practice that. But that practice is without a sprawling goalie and defenseman. Amazing.
The Kings killed off the rest of the time, and not tried to push the play to get back into the game. Tried. The Canucks would simply not allow much to the net. They were blocking what the Kings did get off, and Eddie Lack was able to stop what got through pretty effectively. I mean, in a game the home team was desperate, the Canucks outshot them 16-8 in a third period where score effects and them having the lead usually leads to that edge being the other way.
The Canucks withstood the Kings pulling their goalie, and got two empty netters to make it look better on the scoreboard. They had to withstand not one but two high sticking calls on Hansen ( both for sticking Muzzin ) , but apart from Eddie Lack getting pissed when Williams slashed his chest / glove long after he had frozen a shot, the Kings really did not have a dangerous chance late. Credit the Canucks for that.
Big Time Players ( stats all from here )
The Sedins - Daniel Sedin had a hit ( a real, big one on the forecheck, on MacNabb, I think ), and 9 shot attempts, 8 of those forcing Quick into action. The block he had on Doughty was like watching a chess match, as he almost forced the defenseman to shoot it into him ( and risked injury, it looked like it took a bite out of his hand. He missed one shift is all ). He was part of an inspired performance by the Twins, and even got an empty net goal. His brother ? Well, he sucked at the dot, going 5 for 15. But that mad dive into the pile at Quick, the 3 of his 4 shots that forced saves ( a couple good ones ), and the 3 blocks he had spoke volumes.
The Blue Line Shines - Whether it was Alexander Edler having one of "those games", ( 1 assist, a +2, 8 of 9 shots on net, 2 blocks and 6 hits in a team leading 25:10 TOI ), handling the big forecheck pretty well all night, or Luca Sbisa matching that 6 hits, and adding 2 blocks in 16:21 of mostly solid time, the blue line was solid. Bieksa, Hamhuis, and Weber all had shining moments in a game where the Canucks needed no passengers at all.
Christopher Tanev - Gets his own mention. Like his partner, he was a +2. He had 19:40 in ice time ( the power play is not his ice time like his mate's, and he did miss a shift or so in the room after the Doughty shot block ), and even had 1 of 2 shots hit the net. NO, it was the Gumby like ability to avoid a heavy forecheck, and make the right pass time and again, Those game leading 7 blocks are pretty awesome as well.
Bo Horvat - His line was the one that changed this game several times. The Kings like to come in waves, and can be devastating once they pin their ears back and roll at you. His line changed momentum all night. They had a combined 6 shots ( Hansen had 3 , Horvat 2, and Kenins 1, and Beaker had 3 more miss the net ) and 7 hits ( Hansen 2, Horvat 2, Kenins with 3 ) in their TOI. Think that Willie does not love his rookie centre ? He was out on important draws, going 9 for 14, and while the "4th liner" Kenins had 11:35 TOI, how about 15:19 TOI for the rookie in 20 shifts ? It even surpassed the 14:30 in 21 that Hansen had today. Oh yeah, his clear with 2/10ths left in the game that went in for the second empty netter was also his first short handed goal as well.
The "Pacific" Boys - No, not Sbisa, though he was solid. This was maybe the best game of the year ( or at least in weeks of months ) for both Linden Vey and especially Nick Bonino. Bones was engaged and effective, even while getting torched on the Corsi Chart ( see here, thanks hockeystats.ca ). He had the tying goal, was a +2, had 3 of 4 shots hit the net, and chipped in 3 blocks and 2 hits in a game where he reminded me of the grinder that used to do the same thing for the Ducks. Linden Vey was almost as much of a revelation as well. Maybe it was playing the "old team", but look at that same Corsi Chart and see how effective he, Shawn Matthias, and Derek Dorsett where. 3 SOG, and the best face off percentage on the team, going 6 of 8 for 75 % in his 10:48 TOI.
You have to admire when a team does what the Canucks did today. They could have easily rolled over, taken the bad break, and sagged when they gave up that early second period goal. Instead, they powered up and went at the Kings even harder, giving them all they could handle all game long.
Next up is a team that they should be able to work up some angst for in Arizona tomorrow. Sure, they suck, and are trolling for McDavid with the Oil and Sabres. But they took two points from the Canucks last time, and besides, they have Martin Hanzel. Last time I checked, we still hate him, right ?