With their backs to the wall in a hostile environment, the young and inexperienced Los Angeles Kings
showed the playoff-savvy Vancouver Canucks
they aren't going anywhere in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Kings scored three unanswered goals -- including Anze Kopitar
's power-play winner 7:28 into overtime -- to emerge with a 3-2 victory Saturday night and even their best-of-7 series at 1-1.
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Fredrik Modin's second of the series -- also on the power play -- cut the lead to 2-1 halfway through the second period. Just 35 seconds later, playoff newcomer Wayne Simmonds tied the score off a 3-on-1 rush led by Kopitar, another King playing in only his second postseason game.
Second-year defenseman and emerging superstar Drew Doughty
logged a career-high 32:56 of ice time, had the primary assist on Kopitar's winner and kept the high-powered Sedin twins off the scoresheet.
It was a courageous effort from a group of players coming of age at the right time.
"To be able to get a split in this building, and deal with the emotions of a Canadian crowd, it was a good, solid team effort here tonight," said Kings coach Terry Murray, who showed faith in his younger players by benching veteran Justin Williams
and moving Simmonds to the top line. "The young guys played well, played like veterans for me. I thought they showed a lot of composure, did the right things. A lot of good things from the team tonight."
The best thing for the second game in a row was the power play. After scoring twice with the man advantage in Game 1, the Kings scored two more times in Game 2. If they keep up that pace, it might not matter that they have just one even-strength goal in nearly 140 minutes of play in this series.
The winner was setup by a smart play by defenseman Rob Scuderi
, who caught the Canucks in a change and sent the puck toward their bench. The puck hit defenseman Kevin Bieksa
, resulting in a too many men on the ice call.
"I'd like to take credit for how the play went," Scuderi said, "but I just saw seven or eight guys over by their bench and I just thought, 'What the hell?' "
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault disagreed with the call.
"It was the wrong call," he said. "You're allowed five feet, and the rule is the player coming on the ice can't play the puck. Yeah, that puck touched one of my players, it touched Kevin Bieksa
trying to get off the ice because he was cut. You got two referees and they should make the call if they think it's the penalty, not the linesman. It’s unfortunate, that's the way it is."
On the ensuing power play, the Kings controlled the puck for more than a minute before Kopitar picked up the rebound of his own blocked shot in the right circle and banked a shot that went off goaltender Roberto Luongo
's pad, hit the knob of his stick and trickled across the goal line. It was the fourth power-play goal for the Kings in nine chances during the series.
"The power play has been huge," Doughty said. "We work on it every day. We watch a lot of video and then we watch their PK to see what they do. We've done a great job so far. Hopefully we continue to capitalize because that's where we've been getting our scoring chances."
While the Kings are beaming about their power play, the Canucks know they have to stop taking so many penalties. Vancouver was shorthanded six times Saturday after being down a man three times in Game 1. Of those nine penalties that have led to power plays for the Kings, five have been taken by defenseman Andrew Alberts
"Obviously his penalties weren't very good," Vigneault said of Alberts' three minors in Game 2. When asked if Alberts would be in the lineup for Game 3, Vigneault said, "We'll see what happens next game."
Even if the Canucks find a way to improve their penalty-killing, it might be only a matter of time before suddenly confident Kings find their legs at even strength. They could've folded when they headed into the first intermission down 2-0 after Steve Bernier's power-play goal and Mikael Samuelsson
's third goal in two games.
Instead, the Kings grew up a little and turned this into a series.
"Especially in playoff hockey, it's so hard to get back into the game like that," Doughty said of the 2-0 deficit. "That's the one thing about our youth -- even though we don't have that experience, we never quit. We're going to do everything we can to get those goals back, and tonight we did a good job and it was a great feeling coming out with that win."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL
Shift of the night:
Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff had an outstanding 15-second stint early in the second period while killing off a Pavol Demitra holding penalty. Left alone in front against two Kings, Ehrhoff went to a knee to block a cross-crease pass that surely would've resulted in a slam-dunk goal. Later, Roberto Luongo
made a pad save and left a rebound nearby. But Ehrhoff flattened Ryan Smyth and slid down to block the shot of Michal Handzus. The Canucks killed the rest of the penalty and maintained their 2-0 lead.