VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks have pushed the Los Angeles Kings to the brink of playoff elimination.
The Canucks know giving the Kings that final little shove won’t be easy in Sunday’s crucial do-or-die Game 6 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final series (CBC, 9 p.m. ET).
“They have a lot of pride,” Vancouver defenceman Shane O’Brien said Saturday after the Canucks practised before flying to Los Angeles. “Elimination is the scariest thing when it comes to hockey teams.
“I am pretty sure they are going to be ready to go.”
Vancouver pounded the Kings 7-2 in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Canucks want to finish the Kings off quickly and not leave anything to chance in a Game 7 on Tuesday night at GM Place.
“You don’t want to give teams a second chance,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “We’ve learned that with bad bounces and officiating, anything can happen on any given day.
“You don’t want to let it go to a Game 7 if you can help it.”
Daniel Sedin did not skate with the Canucks on Saturday.
Television replays showed him wincing on the bench after being slashed on the ankle in the second period of Friday’s game. He did play in the third and expects to dress Sunday.
“It’s fine,” said Sedin, who has three goals and five assists in the series. “I’m just resting today.
“I will play tomorrow.”
The Canucks dominated the Kings in Game 5.
They chased goaltender Jonathan Quick out of his net and killed four-of-five penalties, including 28 seconds of a two-man advantage late in the second.
O’Brien rubbed the Kings’ faces in the loss. After a third-period fight with lightweight Wayne Simmonds he raised his arms in victory and played to the crowd.
The actions prompted L.A. coach Terry Murray to call O’Brien a clown after the game.
“I wasn’t trying to show anybody up,” said O’Brien. “It was a big game, there was some emotion, the crowd was standing. The next thing I was raising my hands in the air.
Being humiliated is something the Kings will want to forget, but how it happened will stick in the back of their minds.
“It’s not the time to sit here and be sorry for ourselves,” said centre Anze Kopitar. “It’s time to pick up the spirit again and go back to our game.
“We?ve done some good things throughout the course of the first four games and we want to make sure we get back to that.?
King’s captain Dustin Brown said there isn’t much room left for error.
“It’s not the situation we want to be in but we still have life and we have to believe in that,” said Brown. “We can’t dwell (on the loss) even for a couple of minutes.
“We could be back here for Game 7. You never know what can happen if this game becomes irrelevant.”
One of the Canucks playing with the most confidence is forward Mikael Samuelsson. The big Swede has been moved on the top line with the Sedin twins.
Heading into Saturday’s games he led all playoff scorers with seven goals.
“I’m on a roll,” said Samuelsson, who won a Stanley Cup in 2008 with the Detroit Red Wings. “I feel good about myself.
“When you feel good about yourself you think you can do things with the puck. You’re not so tight. You are loose and play the game you really want to play.”
There also has been a couple of pleasant surprises for the Canucks.
Steve Bernier, who has just 11 goals all season, has three goals in the playoffs.
Pavol Demitra, who managed just three goals in the 28 games he played during an injury-plagued regular season, has two goals and three assists so far.
“It’s been fun,” said Demitra. “In the first couple of games I got a couple of different chances but nothing was going in.
“That’s how it goes. One time everything goes in, and on other days you can have five unbelievable chances and end up with zero points.”
Vancouver finished the regular season with 103 points to claim the third seed in the Western Conference. The Kings, returning to the playoffs for the first time in eight years, were sixth with two less points.
The Canucks head into Game 6 having outscored L.A. 11-3 over the last four periods. They are a more experienced playoff team and are riding a wave of confidence.
Head coach Alain Vigneault said none of that matters when the puck drops.
“Two things that motivate teams the most in this game are facing elimination or you can eliminate a team,” he said. “What ever has happened in the past doesn’t matter.
“You are going to have two teams that are highly motivated.”