Brown's effort sends Kings home with 2-0 lead
Dustin Brown wasn't actually going to be traded on Feb. 27.
Oh, sure, Dean Lombardi took plenty of calls, and like any responsible general manager, he listened, comprehended — and responsibly turned down any offer for the Kings' captain, American silver medalist and pillar of the team's Old World Order.
While Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have earned some well-earned points in the Kings' playoff series with Vancouver, as well as some praise from Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who claimed after Game 1 that Richards "played one of the best games I've seen him play since he's been in LA," it's still the team's long-standing establishment of Brown, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene, to name several players, who have forged the team's hard-working, two-way character.
Friday night, in the Kings' 4-2 victory over the Canucks, Brown turned in a performance similar to his three-goal game against Chicago on Feb. 25 while his name was swirling around in trade rumors. In the Kings' win Friday night, Brown scored two shorthanded goals that sent the Canucks limping toward Los Angeles in a series they trail 2-0. Game 3 is Sunday night at the Staples Center (7:30 p.m., FOX Sports West).
Similar to the two power-play goals and shorthanded goal he registered against the Blackhawks, Brown's performance against Vancouver demonstrated the special-teams dominance LA has exhibited through the first two games of the series. The Kings' power play maintained its 25 percent pace when Stoll stuffed a loose puck past goalie Roberto Luongo for a two-goal, third-period lead. The goal originally was credited to Brown, which gave him a hat trick he held for less than the two hours it took for the scoring change.
But it has been the stifling penalty kill that has been a staple of Kings hockey in 2011-12, driving the Canucks completely out of sorts in this series, turning the defending Western Conference champions into a flailing, desperate unit. Los Angeles is 10-for-10 on the penalty kill in this series, and each of Brown's two goals was particularly harmful.
Kopitar did the grunt work that led to the first goal. Intercepting a careless Alex Edler drop pass, Kopitar used terrific stick work to pull the puck around Luongo stayed in front of the goaltender before deflecting back to a net-crashing Brown. Brown then surgically wristed the puck high through a tangled mess of bodies to put the Kings ahead 1-0 with less than eight seconds remaining in the first period.
"The first one was just Kopi being Kopi," Brown said in a postgame interview with FOX Sports West. "I just picked up the trash, and there was a lot of traffic in front."
After Vancouver tied the score almost instantly in the second period and drew a Willie Mitchell holding call less than five minutes in, it was Brown who reclaimed the lead for LA while making a statement toward anyone who as ever hinted at any perceived lack of speed or skill by someone who has finished among the top three hits totals in each of the last three years.
Pushing the puck past a fallen Dan Hamhuis at the left point 12 seconds into the Canucks' power play, Brown outhustled the two defenders into the attacking zone before alternating from his forehand to his backhand at top speed and lifting the puck past a sliding Luongo.
"They're huge goals," Brown said. "Special teams is a big part of playoff hockey. It's not too often that you're going to see two shorthanded goals like that. The first one is just Kopi being a world-class player."
It was the first time one player scored two shorthanded goals in a playoff game since John Madden scored twice in a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on April 25, 2006. It also marked the first time the Kings scored two shorthanded goals in a playoff game since Jari Kurri and Dave Taylor accomplished the feat on May 21, 1993, in a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Campbell Conference finals.
As a result, Los Angeles is ahead 2-0 in a playoff series for the first time since its inaugural season of 1967-68.
"They're obviously a very good team," Kopitar said about a Canucks team that finished the season with 53 road points, tied for the highest total in the league. "To get two in here, it's huge for us, but nothing is decided yet. We have to play. We have to focus and play our game for whatever it is, the next two, three, four games. We have to play our game and focus on that."