CANUCKS at KINGS
(Los Angeles leads best-of-seven series, 3-1)
TV: CBC, NBCSN, RDS
Big Story: Shifting momentum. It took a period to play out, but the return of leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin and, with him the power play, made a huge difference as the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks stayed alive with a 3-1 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night. Vancouver dominated the final two periods, converted two of three man advantages after failing to score on their first 14 – and giving up two shorthanded goals – and grabbed the momentum.
The question as the series shifts back to Vancouver, is whether and of it survived the three days off between games, a result of two sold out Coldplay concerts.
The unusually long break gave Sedin, out since March 21 with a concussion, more time to find his legs and get reacquainted with twin brother Henrik Sedin and new linemate David Booth in practice. But it's also give the Kings more time to prepare for the Canucks' new looks up front, especially the reunited twins.
"We got to handle the Sedins better," coach Darryl Sutter said. "They're going to play a lot. As a group, we have to handle them better. It's pretty clear how good players they are, and they have great instincts when they're together."
Canucks: Vancouver got two goals from a top power play unit anchored by Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and another on a lucky bounce with those two out on the top line. What they could really use is some offense from the second line and center Ryan Kesler, who got Alexandre Burrows back to start Game 4 and was joined by Maxim Lapierre before it ended. Kesler did set the screen that led directly to Alexander Edler’s power play goal, and was again a factor in front of the net when Henrik added a second with the man advantage. But last year's Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's best defensive forward has yet to score in these playoffs, part of a goalless drought that is now 16 games long. That's too long for a player that either scored or assisted on 11 of the Canucks' 14 goals during their second-round playoff series against Nashville last year.
"It matters the way we play, that we're doing the right things to help the team win," Kesler insisted. "It doesn't matter who is scoring -- as long as someone is."
Kings: Goals have been hard to come by most of this season, but Los Angeles continued a late-season scoring surge with four in each of the first games against Roberto Luongo. Since then, however, they've only managed to put two of 64 shots behind Cory Schneider, and have only managed four even-strength goals the entire series. They can't count on scoring two shorthanded goals like they did in Game 2, though captain Dustin Brown did have a chance at his third after getting hauled down on a shorthanded break in Game 4 and being rewarded with a penalty shot. So the Kings need their power play, which scored three times in the first two games – and once more just after another advantage expired – to break out of its current 1-for-15 funk. At least it created chances in Game 4.
"But you do have to score on them," Sutter said.
Who's Hot: The goaltenders. Since taking over for incumbent No.1 Roberto Luongo to start Game 3, Cory Schneider has stopped 62 of 64 to take the NHL lead in both save percentage (.969) and goals-against average (1.02). That's just slightly better than his Kings’ crease counterpart, Jonathan Quick, who is second in the NHL with a .952 save percentage and fourth with a 1.76 goals-against average. After playing against each other in prep school, college and the AHL, the play of these two goaltenders will likely decide this NHL playoff series.
Injury Report: Kings forward Kyle Clifford is still out after being injured in Game 1 by a dangerous hit from Canucks forward Byron Bitz, who is eligible to return from the resulting two-game suspension but is a healthy scratch … The Kings have been without scoring forward Simon Gagne (concussion) since December.
Stat Pack: The former Philadelphia Flyers duo of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were a hot topic after combining for five points and winning goal in Game 1, but both are pointless and minus-3 since. … Kesler's scoring drought isn’t unique among Vancouver’s top-six forwards. Booth brings a one-goal-in-15-games funk to the top line and Mason Raymond's one-in-10 slump, combined with a soft back check that led directly to Anze Kopitar’s first goal in Game 4, has cost him a spot on the top-two lines, dropping him all the way to the fourth line for Game 5.
Puck Drop: The Canucks didn't look ready when it did in Game 4, relying almost exclusively on Schneider to keep them alive until they found their legs in the second period. They know they can't afford a similarly slow start at home.
"We were a little bit tight because of what was at stake and we didn't handle that moment in the first period as well as we should have," coach Alain Vigneult said.
"We know what's at stake here, we know we have to be better than we were our last game. We've got to come out better, handle the moment better and I'm confident this group can do that."