The HNIC boys spread themselves all over the country. There was the #1 crew in Winnipeg already for the Alumni Game and the latest outside game. Bob Cole with the Haps, Paul Romaniuk with the Leafs. So Canuck fans got the "treat" of having Shorty, Cheech and Murphy do the Canucks from L.A. So that was nice.
Your surprising ( to the experts ) team went into tonight at 4-0. A great start fuelled by some scoring from up and down the lines and defence, a discernible difference in adherence to the system, and a great attitude. Probably fuelled by said experts picking them for the bottom.
The Kings have had goaltending and start problems, going 1-3, and started Peter Budaj in net. But this was the Kings.
To have the best start in team history, the team would have to beat a rival. The Kings sure seem to still think that is so, even though they have taken home all the spoils in this particular "rivalry". They came out pretty hard. Playing the Canucks after a shitty start, maybe they are just in a bad mood.
The Canucks structure has been a large factor in their hot start. They know where they should be, and with the speed from veterans and rookies alike being noticeably better, rolling four lines and three pairings has actually been a thing. To that ; #LetWillieCoach . He had to mix it up with an injury tonight ( Derek Dorsett on a McNabb hit. Looked like wrist or maybe shoulder ), but so what if he had Loui Erikkson with Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen. Did you notice how flashy and dangerous Sven Baetschi looked with the Twins at times ( They played Kopitar's line most of the night. The Kings are a helluva well coached defensive team ). It makes it easier to adapt when injuries do happen. It gets everyone playing the same in the system better. That system is about speed and puck pressure. Offence can come from anyone, in theory. Sorry, only rant of the day. We get so caught up[ in who plays with who. Quennville has won multiple Cups with entirely different lines year to year. Just saying...
The Kings, on home ice in their alternate greys, came out flying and hitting. The Canucks were matching that early hustle, and Sutter had a great chance foiled by Budaj, before some poor play in their own end resulted in an opening goal for the home team. Hank and Danny both were behind their checks, and McNabb beat Markstrom on one he wanted a second shot at.
The orneriness continued, with Dorsett and Clifford doing that thing wingers do on the face off, seeing who gets their stick in over the other, before they both said "#### it" and took their gloves off to dance. This one was more of that, with punches thrown, but not much landed, before the linesmen separated the tired players. Exciting.
With penalties seemingly in short supply at the start, Andreoff finally got one for roughing on Dorsett, and the power play got the chance to shine, but were pretty bad in their first chance at it. It wouldn't be the last. Shortly after this one, Alexandre Burrows took a sneaky tripping penalty at his own line. The Canucks did a solid job on the kill, but then Burr' got another one, a way too obvious trip in the offensive zone. Markstrom was able to stop the point shot on the ensuing power play, but Pearson was just that split second faster to the rebound, poking it by the sprawling goalie for a 2-0 lead.
The Kings took a late penalty, and Sutter almost scored in the final second, but the visitors would have to settle for starting the second on the PP
The power play has looked better in this early season run, and showed themselves to be decent at times, against a very good penalty killing team. Unfortunately, a suspect Sutter pass, put Larsen in a bad position, he could not recover, and everyone collapsed to the net after the initial save. Dustin Brown stuffed it in. The NHL looked for a while at a kicked puck by Kopitar, and while a possible challenge was not there for yet another player clearing out the pad to stop a goalie was there on Brown, Willie decided not to do it, and the game was 3-0, on, even worse, a shorthanded goal.
This would have been the time a Canuck team from last year would have crumbled. It did not look good, to be honest. The Kings were playing their trademark "heavy" game, and the Canucks were not making crisp passes and breakouts to push back. It was not until a solid Sedins and Sven shift, with 12 minutes left, where they even had any sustained pressure in the other end.
But like I said, a different team this year. Hansen got a step on Doughty, and while the Norris winner made a wonderful play to lift his stick on the break, Hansen made an even smarter one to tip the puck back to the front of the net. It confused the hell out if Budaj and the other defender, but not Markus Granlund, who poked it into the empty net to get one back.
They were back to competing, and playing their system better, after that. Standing up at the line. Using the speed. And, yes, hitting back. ( it was around the end of the second where Dorsett was hurt on the forecheck, and the lines went even deeper into the whiteboard combinations ). That hard work paid off. Hansen just plain forced Muzzin to trip him by working hard, and the power play was back in business. This one was pretty textbook. Face off win by Sutter ? Check. Walking the line and getting the shot in by Larsen ( Who has been the reason the power play has looked better )? Check. Rebound goal by someone in front ? Sure, let the captain go ahead and do that to make it 3-2 with less than five minutes left in the second period.
Stats after two were in the home team favour, without a doubt. They led in shots 23-16. 27-18 in hits. 23-17 at the dot. The Canucks had blocked 12 shots to the Kings' 5 after two periods, yet another stat pointing to the territorial advantage the home team had after forty minutes. ( ESPN final stats here ) The Canucks outshot the Kings 9-5 in the third to tighten that stat up. Scroll through at your leisure. Take a gander at Christopher Tanev and those 7 blocks ( it says 6 there, HNIC said 7 ). Yeah. They fought back....
It looked like it would not be enough though. The Kings are experts at The Grind. Darryl Sutter probably has a patent on it. They were dumping pucks out, icing, and playing a cautious game most of the third, but it was looking to be brutally effective. Penalties at 7:49 and 14:14 ( a brutal push in the numbers that looked to be an attempt to break Burrows neck by Shore resulted in 2 minutes would usually be a call from the NHL, but it was quick, and we all know they have a Burrows Exemption at the Dept of Player Safety ) resulted in some offence and chances, but mostly clears and frustration.
But then McNabb put one out over the glass with less than two minutes left. The power play was not able to score, but once Markstrom was pulled for the six on four, Alexander Edler was able to beat the goalie on a perfect screen by Loui Eriksson to tie it up with 35 seconds remaining.
It was cautious, and no real chances happened. The Canucks took a penalty ( Ben Hutton for slashing on Kopitar ) to give the Kings a little over a minute to go to work, but Markstrom made some good late saves to get it to the shootout.
Watch the highlights here.
Burrows had a chance on his patented move but lost the puck. Sven changed his mind going in, and Sutter was stopped on the shot. Tanner Pearson got one five hole when Markstrom tried the one pad drop, and that was all it took.
Now, if you want to complain, they lost a point. But it was the Kings, playing desperate hockey, who actually did that. The Canucks came back and took a point away from a rink they have had a lot more grief than happiness from. From three goals down. We'll take it. And now they can still say they are unbeaten in regulation. Like I said above, tell me you had THAT for the result from the first five games. The Ducks have struggled and will be desperate at home too.
They won't have any idea what hit em... ;-)
See ya tomorrow.