VANCOUVER – All those tight, low-scoring games during the regular season finally paid off for the Los Angeles Kings when it mattered most -- in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Just as he did all season, goaltender Jonathan Quick kept the Kings in the game long enough for them to score just enough. Fourth-liner Brad Richardson tied it early in the third period and Jarret Stoll scored the winner 4:27 into overtime as the Kings eliminated the Vancouver Canucks with a 2-1 win at Rogers Arena on Sunday night.
So much for the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks -- their season is finished just five games into the playoffs against a Kings' team that barely qualified.
But it was the way Los Angeles made the playoffs that paid off in Game 5.
"We've been in this situation a lot of times this year and we always said in the locker room, 'We might not win the Presidents' Trophy, but we'll be battle tested come playoff time,' " said Quick, who finished with 26 saves. "These are the games we've been doing all year, so we're used to playing in it."
Because of that, the Kings will now do something they haven't since 2001 – play in the second round. There, the Kings will meet the No. 2 seed, the St. Louis Blues. The date for Game 1, in St. Louis, has not been determined.
Stoll made sure the Kings advanced after defenseman Dan Hamhuis wiped out coming out of his own zone, picking up the loose puck, skating in on a 2-on-1 and snapping a wrist shot over the blocker of Cory Schneider.
"[Trevor Lewis] made a great play to force the turnover and it was a quick 2-on-1 with [rookie Dwight] King and I was shooting all the way," Stoll said. "I saw a little room up top and put it where I wanted to. I just got lucky, I guess."
With that, the Kings became just the 10th No. 8 seed to eliminate a No. 1 seed since the NHL went to its current playoff format in 1994 – and the sixth to upset a Presidents' Trophy winner.
"It's been a long road for a lot of guys in here that have been in this organization and put in a lot of time and just coming together as a group and to finally take a – this is just one step – but to take a step in this playoff atmosphere is huge for this team," captain Dustin Brown said. "I'm just proud of this group."
But it didn't mean any more, Brown said, because the Canucks were No.1.
"It probably means a lot more to other people being a big upset and them being the Presidents' Trophy winner. For this team, it was what we were going for the whole time," he said. "It's people outside of this room that probably didn’t give us much off a chance that are going to make a big deal out of it."
It was a devastating loss for the Canucks, who were coming off a trip to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season and a second straight Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top regular-season team. But instead of another long playoff run, they were knocked out in the opening round for the first time since 2004.
"To be honest, it doesn't matter if you lose the seventh game of the Final or you lose in five in the first round -- it's devastating," said Daniel Sedin, who was out with a concussion as the Canucks lost the first three games, but returned to spark a Game 4 win. "We have the mindset to win every year. When you end up on the losing side, it's tough. We've got to come back and be stronger."
The Canucks were stronger with Daniel back, and he set up twin brother Henrik on a nice power-play goal to open the scoring with 5:56 left in the first period. But they couldn't get another puck past Quick, who made the best of his 26 saves late in the second period. Quick stopped Jannik Hansen on a 3-on-1, and did the splits to get his right pad on Daniel Sedin's breakaway with 2:12 left.
"I had to make a few stops because [Schneider] seemed like he kept making them," Quick said. "He played great these past few games and I didn't know if he was going to give one up tonight. He was on it all night, and it took a great play by [Drew Doughty] to push them into overtime. It was just a huge, huge win."
Quick's saves late in the second allowed Richardson, playing his second game after an appendectomy on the eve of the playoffs, to tie it early in the third.
Shortly after the Kings failed to record a shot on their third power play, Doughty skated wide and deep into the zone, faking Schneider to his knees before throwing the puck behind him into the crease -- where Richardson, a fourth-liner, beat three Canucks to the loose puck and batted it into an empty net.
"[Schneider] thought he was shooting, so he just sent it in front," said Richardson, who also hit the post seven minutes later. "I was going to the net with my stick on the ice. The fourth line needs to bring energy and give your team a boost."
For a while it looked like Schneider, who finished with 35 saves, might provide the biggest boost. Starting for the third straight game ahead of Roberto Luongo, he followed up a 43-save performance in Game 4 by stopping Anze Kopitar on a breakaway at the first period buzzer and making several more great stops in the second. He stuffed Colin Fraser alone in tight, robbed Brown on a rebound and stopped a hard Jeff Carter blast in close that broke the straps on his mask.
Quick was as quick with praise for Schneider as he was in the crease.
"We played against each other growing up -- high school, college, right on up to every level," Quick said of Schneider. "He's succeeded at every level and it's going to happen here too. He's a great goalie. He kept them in it."
It just wasn't enough to complete the comeback against Quick.
"I only won one game," Schneider said. "It's nice to get some playoff experience and get comfortable in these situations but at the end of the day, it's about results, and playing well doesn't cut it this time of year."