With a quick flick of his wrists, Jarret Stoll sent the Los Angeles Kings on to face St. Louis in the second round — and the Vancouver Canucks into the offseason a lot sooner than they expected after topping the NHL in the regular season.
Stoll beat Cory Schneider at 4:27 of overtime to give Los Angeles a 2-1 victory over Vancouver on Sunday night, knocking out the top-seeded Canucks in five games in the Western Conference first-round series.
”It’s special,” Stoll said. ”It’s pride in the organization, and your team and your teammates and coaching staff. They’re a great team over there, it took a lot to beat them.”
Stoll scored from the left wing after a turnover at Vancouver blue line. The forward skated in on a 2-on-1, but took the shot himself, picking the top-left corner above Schneider’s blocker.
”I was shooting all the way there,” Stoll said. ”I had a lot of room up top. I knew I had a 2-on-1. I knew that. But I didn’t even look twice.”
Brad Richardson tied it for Los Angeles at 3:21 of the third period, and Jonathan Quick made 26 saves.
”To close out this series, for me personally, and a few guys in the room, it’s something we’ve never done, so it’s a great feeling,” Quick said.
The Kings will play the second-seeded St. Louis Blues in the second round.
”You’ve got to give credit to the Kings,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. ”They played a real great series, a real tough opponent, played strong hockey, made the strong plays on the ice and, at the end of the day, they deserved to win.”
Vancouver was the third President’s Trophy winner in four years to be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. Washington lost to Montreal in the first round in 2009-10 and San Jose fell to Anaheim in the 2008-09 opening round.
While Vancouver had expected a deep Cup run, the Kings don’t see this series victory as anything more than the first step for them.
”It probably means a lot more to other people being a big upset and them being the Presidents’ Trophy winner,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ”For this team it was what we were going for the whole time.”
Henrik Sedin opened the scoring for Vancouver with a power-play goal in the first period.
Schneider made 35 saves in his third straight start after Roberto Luongo lost the first two games.
”We had expectations and hopes to go far in this playoff,” Schneider said. ”It seems like around the league, parity is running wild. Look at Pittsburgh, ourselves, Detroit, San Jose. New York’s facing elimination, Boston held it off today. We can’t take anything for granted. Anyone is capable of winning in this league.”
The Canucks dropped out in the first round after leading the NHL in regular-season points for the second straight year. Last season, they lost to Boston in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
”To be honest, it doesn’t matter if you lose the seventh game of the finals or you lose in five in the first round, it’s devastating,” Daniel Sedin said. ”We have the mindset to win every year. When you end up on the losing side it’s tough.”
Vancouver’s new second line of Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre made a quick impression. Burrows fed Kesler from behind the net about a 90 seconds in, but Quick stopped the center’s shot from the slot.
The Canucks then ran into early penalty trouble and didn’t get another shot for 6 minutes before Lapierre put one on Quick. Vancouver killed penalties to Dan Hamhuis and Henrik Sedin, but couldn’t get its power play going on its first advantage.
However, with Henrik Sedin double-shifting, the Canucks capitalized on the second when the Vancouver captain put in a cross-ice pass from Daniel Sedin with 5:56 left in the period.
The opportunity came after Hamhuis kept Mike Richards’ clearing attempt in at the blue line.
Schneider preserved the lead when he stopped Anze Kopitar on a breakaway in the dying seconds of the first period. Kopitar put the rebound off the post as time expired.
Both goaltenders stole the show in the second period as neither team could score.
In the early going, Schneider stopped Kopitar’s first shot and Brown on the rebound as the Kings outshot the Canucks 6-0 in the first 4:11.
Later, Schneider robbed Richards on a rebound, snaring the puck with his catching glove. With just over 2 minutes left in the second, Quick stymied Daniel Sedin on a breakaway, lowering his right pad to block a snap shot. Sedin slammed his stick against the glass in frustration as he went to the bench.
Richardson drew the Kings even in the third, tapping in a pass from Drew Doughty. Doughty deked and circled around the Canucks’ Keith Ballard and passed the puck back to Richardson from the end line. It was the first goal of the series for Richardson, who missed the first three games while recovering from an appendectomy.
”Dewey just made a great play, had some good patience turning the D wide and made Schneider kind of commit,” Richardson said. ”(Schneider) thought he was shooting, so he just sent it in front. Me, I was going to the net with my stick on the ice.”
Notes: The Canucks made just one lineup change, inserting winger Dale Weise in place of Zack Kassian, who was the principal acquisition in the trade that sent Cody Hodgson to Buffalo at the Feb. 27 deadline. … Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo played his 100th career playoff game.