VANCOUVER – Jarret Stoll had no doubt about what he was going to do.
He scored in overtime as the Los Angeles Kings came back to beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in the fifth game of the Western Conference quarter-final series Sunday night.
“I was shooting all the way there,” said Stoll.
And now, the underdog Kings have a chance to move a step closer to a chance at the Stanley Cup after many had written off their playoff hopes earlier in the season. L.A. took the best-of-seven series 4-1, spoiling Vancouver’s hopes of a return to the Stanley Cup final.
“It feels great to win a playoff round,” said Stoll. “It hasn’t happened here in a while.”
This marks the first time the Kings have advanced beyond the first round since 2001.
“It’s special,” said Stoll. “It’s pride in the organization, and your team and your teammates and coaching staff. They’re a great team over there, it took a lot to beat them.”
Stoll scored on a wrist shot from the wing on a turnover at the Canucks’ blue-line 4:27 into OT. The forward skated in on a 2-on-1 and picked the top-left corner behind Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider.
“I had a lot of room up top,” said Stoll. “I knew I had a 2-on-1. I knew that. But I didn’t even look twice.”
Los Angeles completed a major upset after finishing eighth in the regular season while the Canucks placed first in the Western Conference and overall in the NHL for the second season in a row.
“The whole eight versus one, we didn’t even see that number or talk about it,” said Stoll. “It was the L.A. Kings versus the Vancouver Canucks. We played them well. We knew they were a good team, a great team, but we felt we were a pretty good team, too.”
Brad Richardson also scored for the Kings, who trailed 1-0 after 40 minutes. Richardson tied it up 3:21 into the third period. Goalie Jonathan Quick made 26 saves to earn the win.
“To close out this series, for me personally, and a few guys in the room, it’s something we’ve never done, so it’s a great feeling,” said Quick.
Henrik Sedin scored the lone Canucks goal, while Schneider stopped 35 shots.
“If you play the way we did in the last three every game, you’ll be in every game and then our skill is going to take over,” said Henrik Sedin.
“In the first game we took way too many penalties. In the second, the power play cost us the game. If you do that in a seven-game series, you give away two games, you’ve got to win four out of five and that’s tough when they don’t give you an inch out there.”
The Canucks finished the regular season 16 points ahead of the Kings. Vancouver recorded 111 points while the Kings managed 95.
However, for the third straight game, the Canucks failed to capitalize on the home-ice advantage that they had fought so hard to earn. Their lone win in the series came in Game 4 in L.A.
Vancouver’s new second line of Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre made a quick impression. Burrows fed Kesler from behind the net about a minute and a half in, but Quick stopped the centre’s shot from the slot. But the Canucks again could not get the secondary scoring that they needed.
The loss spoiled another strong effort from Schneider, who started his third straight game in place of Roberto Luongo.
“Both of our goaltenders did what they were supposed to do,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “They gave us a chance to win. Unfortunately, the rest of our game wasn’t good enough.”
Double-shifting on the power play, Henrik Sedin put in a cross-ice pass from his twin brother Daniel at 14:04 of the first period. The opportunity came after Dan Hamhuis kept a Mike Richards clearing attempt in at the blue-line.
Richardson was off for roughing at the time.
But early in the third, Richardson made up for his earlier penalty miscue by tapping in a pass from Drew Doughty. The Kings defenceman deked and circled around Canucks defender Keith Ballard and then passed the puck back to Richardson from the end line.
It was the first goal of the series for Richardson, who missed the first three games while recovering from an emergency appendectomy.
“Dewey just made a great play, had some good patience turning the D wide and made Schneider kind of commit,” said Richardson. “(Schneider) thought he was shooting, so he just sent it in front. Me, I was going to the net with my stick on the ice.”
Stoll scored his winner after Trevor Lewis forced a turnover at the Vancouver blue-line and sent Hamhuis down to the ice on what fans thought should have been a penalty. But Vigneault said he was told an infraction did not occur.
“You’ve got to give credit to the Kings,” said Vigneault. “They played a real great series, a real tough opponent, played strong hockey, made the strong plays on the ice and, at the end of the day, they deserved to win.”
The Kings will now meet the St. Louis Blues in the second round. Los Angeles must post another upset against the club that finished second in the West.
“It’s going to be a battle against those guys,” said Stoll.
Notes: The Canucks made just one lineup change, inserting winger Dale Weise in place of Zack Kassian, who was the principal acquisition in the trade that sent Cody Hodgson to Buffalo at the Feb. 27 deadline. … The Kings did not make any lineup changes from Game 4. … Vancouver defenceman Sami Salo played his 100th career playoff game.