The Vancouver Canucks, playing well, scored a third-period goal to reduce their deficit to one goal, and the old, familiar demons could have started creeping in for the Kings.
That’s when the team captain took control.
Dustin Brown, continuing an early-season offensive resurgence, scored two third-period goals to put the game back out of reach, and the Kings went on to beat the Canucks 4-1 before a sellout crowd of 18,118 at STAPLES Center on Friday night.
``It's nice to have a couple-goal cushion,’’ Kings center Anze Kopitar said. ``For them to score and us to come right back and score, that probably flattens their tires a little and pumps ours a little more. It's one of those things where they think they have the momentum coming their way and we get it right back, so that's obviously a good thing.''
The Kings improved to 3-1 this season, with two of the wins coming against the Canucks, the team that ended their playoff dreams last spring in a six-game first-round series.
``There’s a great deal of importance to the game,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``Any time you lose in a playoff series, like we did last year, there’s check marks on the schedule, that those are the games you really want to come back and give solid efforts in. We wanted to build off our third period in Atlanta.’’
In fact, the last time the Canucks came calling to STAPLES Center, they rallied with three third-period goals to end the Kings' season. The measure of how far the Kings have come since then could be measured in the third period Friday.
Daniel Sedin scored 6:53 into the third period to pull the Canucks within 2-1, and the veteran, playoff-savvy team had the momentum. But not for long.
Just 50 seconds after Sedin’s goal, Kopitar made a brilliant move around Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa and slid the puck to Brown for a goal. Five minutes later, Brown went to the net again and scored, giving the Kings their winning margin.
After scoring only one regulation goal in each of the first two games, the Kings have now scored seven goals in their last two games. The second line was strong again, as Stoll and Williams scored to give the Kings a 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
``Yeah, we didn't score a whole lot of goals (before tonight), but we were doing some good things,’’ Kopitar said. ``They just didn't result in goals. We hit a few posts and got some unlucky bounces. It's just a matter of staying with it and believing that it is going to come. Now, hopefully we're back on track and hopefully we can play like this every game.''
Quietly, Quick turned in yet another solid effort. Quick improved to 3-0 this season and has allowed only one goal in each game, stopping a total of 79 of 82 shots. Quick helped kill five Vancouver power plays and looked particularly adept with his glove hand.
The Kings scored their first first-period goal of the season just 2:48 into the game. Jack Johnson tossed the puck toward the net, from the right circle, and it deflected off the leg of Jarret Stoll and into the Vancouver net. Davis Drewiske also got an assist.
The Kings took a 2-0 lead 3:36 into the second period. Ryan Smyth carried the puck into the Vancouver zone and took it wide right. Smyth pushed the puck over to Jake Muzzin, who couldn't handle it, but Justin Williams picked it up and cut to the net. Williams' shot deflected off the skate of Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa and trickled past Luongo.
The line of Smyth, Stoll and Williams was strong again. Each player has two goals this season. Stoll and Williams scored against Vancouver and Smyth had two assists.
``The Stoll line was maybe our better line out there tonight, again,’’ Murray said. ``They were really pursuing the puck with good pressure, had a lot of composure, making plays, made good decisions through the center of the ice and ended up scoring. Williams' goal is a nice attack, good attitude. Muzzin jumping up on the play, getting to the net, looking for those loose pucks. It's a great read.’’
The Canucks got back in the game 6:53 into the third period, just moments after Wayne Simmonds hit the post in the Vancouver zone. Henrik Sedin carried the puck up the right side and rifled a perfect pass to the far post to his brother, Daniel, who tapped the puck past Quick.
The Kings' two-goal lead was restored just 50 seconds later, though. Kopitar walked the puck around Bieksa, then dropped a pass for Brown, who scored from close range to make it 3-1 at the 7:43 mark.
``It was pure instinct,’’ Kopitar said. ``It’s one of those things where I played with Brownie [Dustin Brown] for a bit, and Brownie played with me for a bit, so I knew Brownie was going to go to the post there and I guess Brownie knew I was going to slide it over. It’s one of those things where I’d probably make that play nine out of 10 times so I figure it was one of those tonight.’’
On a delayed penalty, the Kings took a three-goal lead. Brown drew the penalty in the neutral zone, then got rewarded for it, as he whacked at the puck in the crease and saw it hop over Luongo with 7:07 remaining. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Michal Handzus got assists.
``It was a good momentum change for us, when we score back-to-back right after they score,’’ Brown said. ``We kind of took the wind out of their sails, which was a bit part of the game.’’
1 - 0 LAK
2 - 0 LAK
2 - 1 LAK
3 - 1 LAK
4 - 1 LAK
Interference on goalkeeper