A fortunate bounce gave the Los Angeles Kings a win over Vancouver.
Dustin Penner scored the winning goal with 3:14 left in the third period to help the Los Angeles Kings beat the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks 4-2 in the opener of their Western Conference quarterfinal series Wednesday night.
Los Angeles only secured a playoff berth with three games left in the regular season and entered the series as the clear underdog. Penner had gone the last nine games of the regular season without a goal.
The winger capitalized on a lucky bounce after Mike Richards’ pass went off Jeff Carter’s skate, and he whipped the puck past Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Penner said it was nice to score ”just any goal actually.”
”You can’t get frustrated,” he said. ”I wasn’t so much worried about us getting frustrated so much as letting one slip away, and we got a fortunate bounce on my goal. But we worked hard for 60 minutes tonight and it worked out for us.”
Dustin Brown added an empty-net goal in the final minute to cap the scoring.
Mike Richards and Willie Mitchell also had goals for the Kings.
Alex Burrows and Alex Edler replied for the Canucks.
The Kings outshot the Canucks 39-26. Los Angeles converted two of eight power plays, while the Canucks were blanked on five.
”They had a good power play,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. ”They kept us in our end for the full two minutes and it’s tough, mentally.”
The Canucks finished first overall in the NHL for the second straight season with a 51-22-9 record, while the Kings finished eighth in the Western Conference with a 40-27-15 mark, but the Kings controlled most of the play in the first two periods.
”We wanted to have a good start in a tough building, and we did that,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
The Canucks hung in as the score was tied 1-1 after the first period and 2-2 after the second.
”We came out strong,” Penner said. ”We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew they were going to come out hitting and we were a well prepared group here. We did a lot of video and we’re a really focused group right now.
”Their goaltender kept them in and they could have easily stolen it from us. We had a lot of power-play opportunities, and when you get a lot of power-play opportunities and don’t capitalize as much as you should, it’s one of those games they can pull out of the fire.”
The game got off to a raucous start as Vancouver wingers David Booth, playing the first playoff game of his career, and Max Lapierre hammered L.A. star defenseman Drew Doughty into the end boards, prompting the sellout crowd of 18,890 to wave their free towels in jubilation.
”I thought we had a lot of energy but we ran out of position to get those big hits,” Burrows said.
Moments later, Luongo got his blocker on a Rob Scuderi shot and gloved a Brown wrister.
Burrows opened the scoring 3:17 into the game. Sedin fought off Kings defenseman Colin Fraser and sent a pass to Burrows, who sent a one-timer at the Kings’ net. Jonathan Quick made a save off his toe but Burrows fetched a long rebound, whirled around and beat the L.A. goaltender on the blocker side.
A delay-of-game penalty to Vancouver’s Chris Higgins for shooting the puck over the glass gave the Kings a five-on-three power play for 1:11. But L.A. needed just 10 seconds to forge a 1-1 tie as Richards beat Luongo with a shot through the legs from a sharp angle.
The goal came after Vancouver’s Sammy Pahlsson won a faceoff in the Canucks end and sent the puck back to teammates. But they promptly gave it away, allowing the Kings to get the puck to Richards.
”They played a better overall game than we did tonight. You’ve got to give them credit,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
”We ended up with four penalties in the first period, which is a lot and we followed it up with nine more minutes in the second. Obviously we spent a lot of energy trying to kill those penalties but they were the better team tonight.”
Early in the second period, Quick lived up to his surname as he slid across the crease to foil Ryan Kesler on a wraparound attempt.
The Kings had five straight power plays in an 11-minute span covering the first and second periods but could not score.
Vancouver winger Byron Bitz gave them another chance at 12:12 of the second as he received a boarding major and game misconduct for slamming Kyle Clifford face-first into the glass. Clifford stayed on the bench a while afterward, then left the game and did not return.
Mitchell put in a point shot off Pahlsson’s stick with less than a minute to go in the five-minute man-advantage opportunity.
The Canucks drew even with just eight seconds left in the second period as Alex Edler’s point shot hit Brown’s stick, bounced off the ice and then went high past a screened Quick.
Game 2 is Friday night in Vancouver.
Notes: Carter returned to the lineup after missing the last five games of the regular season with a bruised ankle. ”It feels fine,” he said after the morning skate. … Daniel Sedin remained out with a concussion. He missed his 10th straight game. The winger did not take part in the morning skate with the team or a second session with extras. Vigneault refused to comment on a Swedish media report that quoted Sedin’s father saying Daniel experienced a headache after skating earlier in the week. … This is the fifth post-season series between the teams. Both clubs have won two series. The Canucks prevailed in 2010 and 1982 en route to the Stanley Cup finals. The Kings ousted Vancouver in 1993 and 1991. … Los Angeles has four Stanley Cup winners on its roster. The Canucks have one – Pahlsson (Anaheim, 2007).