LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Henrik Sedin gave the puck to his brother and immediately got it back. He slipped between two defenders and found the net with all the ease you’d expect from the NHL scoring champion.
Just like that, the Vancouver Canucks were back from the brink of a dire playoff deficit, thanks to the brilliance of a makeshift line loaded with superstar Swedes.
Sedin scored the go-ahead goal with 2:52 to play, and the Canucks connected four times in a wild third period to even the series with a 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Mikael Samuelsson, Sami Salo and Ryan Kesler also scored and Daniel Sedin added three assists in the final 12:31 for the Canucks, who rallied from three one-goal deficits before surging ahead to send the series back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Friday night.
“We knew what we had to do, and we didn’t need the coach or the fans to tell us,” Henrik Sedin said. “If this had been a couple of years ago, we would have started cheating up the ice, given up some breakaways, and it would have been over. We’re a better team than that now.”
Yet until coach Alain Vigneault moved five-goal playoff scorer Samuelsson onto the Sedin twins’ line during the second period, the third-seeded Canucks were in trouble against the young, hungry Kings. The Swedes then combined for two goals and six points in the third period?and Salo added another go-ahead goal.
Starting with Samuelsson’s fifth goal of the playoffs on a power-play redirection with just over 12ï¿½ minutes left, Vancouver put on a relentless offensive effort that put Los Angeles on its heels.
“Samuelsson was going well, and the twins needed to pick up their game a little bit,” said Vigneault, who also put the Sedins to work killing penalties. “I thought that sparked them when they made that change.”
Game 6 is back at Staples Center on Sunday.
After Salo put Vancouver ahead with 7:44 left, Wayne Simmonds answered for Los Angeles 1:02 later. The Sedins then got loose on a 4-on-2 rush, and Henrik put his first goal of the series behind Jonathan Quick, who made 31 saves for the Kings. Kesler added an empty-netter with 17 seconds left.
“We made two costly mistakes, and they’re a transition team,” Kings forward Ryan Smyth said. “We’ve talked about this at the start of the series and throughout the series. They thrive on that kind of stuff. We’ve got to eliminate the turnovers and the odd-man rushes, (because) they do not need a lot of room.”
Roberto Luongo made 22 saves as the Canucks won despite yielding two more power-play goals to the Kings, who have nine in the series. Although Simmonds responded to Salo’s slap shot goal by charging the net to bat a loose puck past Luongo’s extended glove, Sedin had the final answer to Los Angeles’ hopes of getting to the brink of its first playoff series victory since 2001.
“This is part of the process you’ve got to go through as a young group of guys and face adversity,” Kings coach Terry Murray said.”Again, I feel we’ve handled those situations pretty well over the course of the year. We’ve shown to be resilient and ready and bounce back. It’s going to be a big test back in Vancouver.”
Christian Ehrhoff and Pavol Demitra scored early tying goals for the Canucks, who won the Northwest Division and finished with the NHL’s fifth-best regular-season record.
Captain Dustin Brown and Simmonds each had a goal and an assist, while Anze Kopitar scored a go-ahead goal late in the second period for the Kings.The playoff newcomers were outshot 17-8 and thoroughly outplayed in the third, while Vancouver showed the veteran poise that prompted coach Alain Vigneault to hold only an optional practice for his club one day earlier.
Drew Doughty and Brown scored early power-play goals as the Kings stretched their streak of consecutive scores with the man advantage to six straight over three games, starting with Kopitar’s overtime goal in Game 2.
Vancouver finally stopped Los Angeles’ power-play streak late in the second period, and much-maligned veteran Demitra tied it at 2 on a 2-on-1 break. But during a delayed penalty in 4-on-4 play moments later, Kopitar deflected Simmonds’ pass upstairs on Luongo for the second goal of the series for the Kings’ leading scorer.
Although Los Angeles fans relentlessly jeered Luongo while their club took a one-goal lead into the final period, the Canadian Olympic star made an outstanding stop on Alexander Frolov’s breakaway early in the third period.
“That’s how we do things around here,” Luongo said. “We’ve done it many times during the season where we had to dig one out in the third. Obviously it was not a pretty one, but obviously it was a huge one. I felt great, but it was a high-scoring game. Sometimes you’ve just got to make the saves and get the win.”
NOTES: Before the game, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman affirmed his faith in the league’s hockey operations staff when questioned about Daniel Sedin’s disallowed goal in Game 3. The league ruled Sedin kicked the puck into the net after a lengthy video review, and Bettman agreed with the call. … Vancouver D Nolan Baumgartner replaced Aaron Rome, who played in Game 3 after missing the first two games of the series because of an undisclosed injury. … Canucks fan Jason Reitman?the Canadian-born, Los Angeles-raised director of “Up in the Air”?and actor Andy Garcia attended the game.