Kopitar’s goal, 7:28 into overtime, gave the Kings an impossible-to-overstate 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Scuderi wasn’t even on the ice when Kopitar’s rebound shot beat Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo to even the series 1-1 – with Game 3 to be played Monday night at STAPLES Center – but Scuderi’s heady, veteran play set up the overtime winner.
Six minutes into overtime, Scuderi held the puck, looked to center ice, saw the Canucks in the middle of a line change and fired the puck toward their bench. A Vancouver player touched it, and the Canucks were whistled for too many men on the ice.
On the ensuing power play, Jack Johnson and Kopitar had shots blocked before Kopitar whacked at a rebound. Luongo made the stop, but deflected the puck behind him and into the net, sparking a joyous on-ice celebration in the Kings’ first playoff win since 2002.
The Kings rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit and Kopitar’s goal helped negate the sting of their 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks in Game 1 on Thursday night.
``The first shot, I took a one-timer and I think (Vancouver’s Ryan) Kesler blocked it,’’ Kopitar said of his overtime goal. ``Then I was just trying to get it on net the second time, and it just went off his (stick) knob and went in.’’
Afterward, as his more high-profile teammates were surrounded by reporters, Scuderi basically shrugged as he described his game-turning play.
``I knew they were making a line change,’’ Scuderi said of the Canucks. ``I wish I could take total credit for the way it worked out, but I did just take a chance. I figured if no one touched the puck, we had a winger up above. I think we might have had a 2-on-1 because they had their D changing.
``We just got lucky with the fact that he touched it. I thought he was going to let it go because they had some guys on the ice. I think if it slides past him, they [the refs] don't make the call, but it looked like at least seven or eight guys on the ice at the time. It was a call they couldn't pass up.’’
Perhaps not surprisingly, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault disagreed.
``It was the wrong call,’’ Vigneault said. ``You are allowed five feet, and the rule is the player coming on the ice cannot play the puck. While, yeah, that puck touched one of our players, it touched Kevin Bieksa, trying to get off the ice because he was cut. We've got two referees that got red stripes on their sweaters. They should make the call if they think it's a penalty, and not the linesman.’’
Regardless, the call was made, and it was yet another subtle play by Scuderi, the type he has made throughout his career with the Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Last season, Scuderi played a huge role in the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run, and the Kings signed him as a free-agent last summer with the hopes that he would provide steady play. Saturday’s overtime play was exactly the type of thing they had in mind.
``Pretty smart play,’’ Murray said. ``That's a veteran player that's been through the playoffs. He recognized the situation. The puck is on his stick and he knows there are too many players and he puts it right back to the bench. That's as good a read that was made maybe all night long, by anybody on the ice.’’
Scuderi’s play, and Kopitar’s goal, gives the series a much different feel going back to Los Angeles. A young team such as the Kings, without much previous playoff experience, now has some confidence and momentum going into Game 3.
``It does feel different, as far as the series goes,’’ Scuderi said, ``but as a young team that hasn't been in the playoffs, we're really trying to focus on what we can do game to game. I thought that was our biggest attribute tonight, that we just focused on tonight's game. If we could have evened it up, we wanted to even it up, but we were more focused on the way we played. But certainly we're glad to be heading home with it 1-1.’’
Given the way the game started, an 0-2 deficit seemed far more likely for the Kings.
Steve Bernier scored a power-play goal 7:33 into the game, and Mikael Samuelsson scored his third goal of the series at the 9:49 mark. But after Kings goalie Jonathan Quick let in Samuelsson’s long-range, soft goal, he shut the door and finished with 24 saves.
The Kings didn’t allow the Canucks a shot on goal in the final 10 minutes of the first period, and their improved play got rewarded in the second period, when Fredrik Modin scored a power-play goal at the 10:58 mark and Wayne Simmonds tied it 35 seconds later.
``Especially in playoff hockey, it's so hard to get back into a game like that,’’ Drew Doughty said. ``That's one thing about our youth. Even though we don't have a lot of that experience, we never quit. We're going to do anything we can to get those goals back, and tonight we did a great job. It was a great feeling to come out with that win.’’
The Kings have now scored two power-play goals in each of the first two games and are 4-for-9 with the man advantage so far in the series.
The Kings made three lineup changes Saturday, including what coach Terry Murray called the ``drastic'' move of scratching veteran winger Justin Williams – a former Stanley Cup winner -- from the lineup due to his dissatisfaction with Williams’ recent play.
Simmonds, a third line, ``checking line’’ winger for most of this season, moved up to the first line and had four hits in addition to the second-period game-tying goal.
``Simmonds played tremendous here tonight,’’ Murray said. ``He was twice the player that he was in Game 1, I felt. Skating, he's on the puck, he played heavier, he played grittier. He just was more aware of what was going on.
``I thought, in the first part of the first period, he maybe showed a little bit of being not sure what to do, where to go, on that top line, but by the middle of the first period he was on track and had good flow to his game, was reading off those guys and scored a huge goal. I liked what I saw.’’
The Kings needed Simmonds’ goal, and the comeback, after they fell in a two-goal hole.
After the Kings didn't record a shot on goal on the game's first power play, the Canucks scored a power-play goal 7:33 into the first period. Kyle Wellwood made a cross-ice pass to Kesler. Quick slid across to stop Kesler's shot, but the rebound ended up in the crease and Bernier knocked in the rebound before the Kings could clear the puck away.
The Canucks took a two-goal lead just 2:16 later. Samuelsson took a pass from Pavol Demitra and scored on a long-range, low wrist shot that knuckled a bit but cleanly beat Quick to his right side at the 9:49 mark.
``We've been in that situation many times before,’’ Quick said of the 2-0 deficit. ``It wasn't the first time that we've been down a couple goals. We said the same thing we've said all year, play like it's 0-0. We were getting shots and we were getting chances. Luongo made some great saves there early to keep us off the board. We knew if we kept that pressure up, sooner or later we were going to get a couple bounces.’’
The Kings got on the scoreboard with a power-play goal with 9:02 remaining in the second period. Johnson took the puck behind the net and centered it, and after a scramble in front, Modin skated in and knocked the puck past Luongo.
Simmonds scored 35 seconds later to tie the game. Kopitar skated in and made a perfect pass across the crease to Simmonds, who scored on a one-timer from close range with 8:27 remaining in the second period.
Just as in Game 1, the third period was scoreless, but this time the Kings got the win. They also kept the Canucks’ top line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows completely off the score sheet, after the Sedins combined for four points in Game 1.
``We didn't talk a lot about (the Sedin line),’’ Murray said. ``We did in the pregame and we did talk about it yesterday. It's a premier line in the league. They probably are the best line in the league. We have to have great awareness. We tried very hard to get a matchup.
``We changed on the fly a few times to get the back end matched up. You're not going to totally eliminate those scoring opportunities. They're too good, but you've got to try to limit their number of quality chances. I thought tonight, when they had their scoring chances, Quick was right there for us.’’
1 - 0 VAN
2 - 0 VAN
2 - 1 VAN
2 - 2 Tie
1st OT Period
3 - 2 LAK