EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – In the past two Stanley Cup playoff games, half a second has meant the difference between victory and defeat for the Vancouver Canucks.
That was how coach Alain Vigneault analysed a penalty-killing unit that the Los Angeles Kings shredded for seven goals in 12 opportunities ? including three goals on three power plays during the Kings’ 5-3 victory Monday night.
Los Angeles leads the Canucks in the best-of-seven series, 2-1, heading into Wednesday night’s fourth game.
“For whatever reason, we’re half a second behind,” Vigneault said. “That half a second is opening up lanes. They’re getting shots from the point that are either getting tipped or finding the back of our net.”
The Kings’ success started when coach Terry Murray paired Jack Johnson with Drew Doughty as the power play’s point men Saturday night.
“They’ve got a lot of movement up there and they’ve got of great fake and deception,” Vigneault said. “Because they’re faking, sometimes we’re buying into it and they can open that lane and get their shots through.”
As a result, the Canucks have the worst penalty-killing of any playoff team this year: 18.2 per cent.
“That’s something that’s unusual for this group,” said forward Ryan Kesler, one of three nominees for the Frank Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward.
“It’s not like we’re going out there thinking we’re going to get scored on again,” Kesler said. “But we need bounces right now and we’re going to have to force our own bounces.”
Vigneault chose not to practise killing penalties during Tuesday’s skate.
“You can do a lot through video work,” Vigneault said. “Right now, rest is more important.”
Besides, “your best penalty killer is usually your goaltender,” Vigneault said.
Roberto Luongo will start in goal Wednesday night after being pulled in the second period of Monday night’s loss.
“He’s ready to go, I think,” forward Alex Burrows said. “He’s the kind of guy who likes to bounce back and play the big games. I’m sure he’s going to play a real good game.”
The Canucks’ captain added that he remains confident despite allowing nine goals in three Stanley Cup playoff games.
“I’m fine,” Luongo said. “It’s part of the process. One of the key factors is to be mentally strong enough to put games behind you and focus on the next one.
“It’s all about (the fourth game) right now. If we win, we take back home-ice advantage. That’s what my focus is on.”
Henrik Sedin believes the Canucks face the same kind of situation as in last year’s playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks ? only in reverse.
“They were down 2-1 to us and needing to win their fourth game at home,” Sedin said. “They did that, they won the fifth game and all of a sudden, they had all the momentum.
“We need to stay confident. If we learned something from last year, then we need to show it here the next couple of days.”