LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Those tidy red playoff beards are about to get a whole lot scruffier.
Vancouver’s sensational Sedin twins made sure of that, scoring two dramatic go-ahead goals four days apart to finish off the Los Angeles Kings.
Daniel Sedin’s tiebreaking goal was set up by a fortuitous crack in Mikael Samuelsson’s stick with 2:03 to play, and the Canucks rallied from another third-period deficit for a 4-2 victory over the frustrated Kings in Game 6 Sunday night.
In nearly a decade in the NHL, the Sedins still haven’t reached a Western Conference final. But after perhaps the most dynamic regular season of these redheads’ intertwined careers, league scoring champion Henrik and goal-scoring whiz Daniel appear determined to cross another frontier after reaching the second round for the third time in four seasons.
“This is definitely a great step, and we’re proud of what we accomplished, but we all know there’s more work to do,” said Henrik, who highlighted Vancouver’s dramatic comeback in Game 4 on a go-ahead goal with 2:52 left. “It’s great to start off the playoffs by beating a team like this, that made us work and come back late. We’ll learn a lot from that.”
Roberto Luongo made 30 saves while carrying third-seeded Vancouver through the Sedin twins’ shotless first two periods, and Kevin Bieksa tied it early in the third.
Yet the series seemed headed for its third overtime game until Samuelsson’s stick cracked on a slap shot, sending the puck skittering meekly forward. That left it in perfect position for Sedin, who swooped in and snapped a shot past Jonathan Quick.
“The (puck) came to me, and it wasn’t a very hard shot, but it found a way to go in,” Daniel Sedin said. “It’s one of those things.”
Judging by the confident smiles on the Swedish brothers’ faces in the Staples Center locker-room after combining for 18 points against the Kings, they believe more of those things are in store. The Northwest Division champion Canucks could be in position to meet second-seeded Chicago in the second round for the second straight year after closing out the Kings with three straight wins.
“They were our best players tonight, especially late in the third,” Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler said. “They found a way to get it done, and we needed that from them.”
The Canucks outscored Los Angeles 15-5 and overcame two third-period deficits in the final seven periods, with the good times starting shortly after coach Alain Vigneault put Samuelsson on the Sedin twins’ line in Game 4.
“We just got to work and got back in the games and won,” Vigneault said. “I think (Game 4) was a big moment for our confidence and our game. I don’t know if it hurt them mentally, as well, but we did win three in a row.”
Samuelsson failed to score a goal in Game 6 for the first time in his remarkable series, but still earned two assists?including that accidental helper on Sedin’s decisive goal?to finish with 11 points.
“The puck just flutters around, and it ends up with a very fortunate bounce,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “If (Samuelsson’s shot) gets through, it probably goes over the net. That was not a well-placed shot.”
Steve Bernier scored an early goal for Vancouver, and former Sedin linemate Alex Burrows put his first goal of the post-season into an empty net with 1:07 left.
Drew Doughty and Alexander Frolov scored, while Quick stopped 18 shots for Los Angeles, which was 29-0-2 in the regular season when it took a lead into the third period. After blowing two third-period leads at home in the post-season, the sixth-seeded Kings were left with little satisfaction from a 101-point season and their first playoff appearance since 2002.
“It’s a big disappointment, because we know we had some chances to take control of this series,” Ryan Smyth said. “It’s also a lesson to be learned. As the series went on, (Luongo) got better. We found ways to beat him early, but he gave them a chance.”
Although Frolov scored his first goal of the playoffs early on, Luongo kept the Canucks’ deficit from growing much larger while Los Angeles outshot Vancouver 4 to 1 for most of the first 30 minutes. The Canadian Olympic star made his most spectacular save on Smyth’s point-blank chance midway through the second period, rolling to the ice while making an improbable glove stop above his prone body.
“I was lying down and I saw him winding up,” Luongo said. “Luckily, he doesn’t have a Howitzer there, so I was able to snare it.”