VANCOUVER – Maybe it was too much adrenalin flowing in the opening game of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Or a lack of discipline.
Whatever the reason, the Vancouver Canucks paid the price for too many penalties Wednesday night in a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
“Some guys who are killing them, they play a ton of minutes,” said Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin. “Other guys sit on the bench and do nothing for 10-15 minutes.
“That’s something we’ve really got to focus on for next game. They had a good power play. They kept us in our end for the full two minutes and it’s tough, mentally.”
The best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final continues in Vancouver on Friday before shifting to Los Angeles for games Sunday and Wednesday.
The Kings went 2-for-7 on the power play and stayed in the game by getting their first two goals with extra skaters.
At one point, Vancouver took seven of eight penalties over the first two periods, including a pair of two-man advantages.
The last of those penalties was a boarding major and a game misconduct to Byron Bitz, a fourth-liner called up from the AHL Chicago Wolves.
He hammered Kyle Clifford into the corner boards and his head struck the glass.
Clifford remained on the bench in the second period but left the game with what the club called an upper body injury. He didn’t play a shift after the hit.
“I thought we had a lot of energy but maybe we ran out of position to get those big hits,” said Alex Burrows who scored on his own rebound of the first shot of the game.
“We’ve just got to channel our energy a little bit better and make sure we play better as a team.”
“If you give them two five-on-threes and a five-minute power play it’s tough to stay in a playoff game when you do that,” he said.
Vancouver was trying to kill off the Bitz penalty when former Canuck Willie Mitchell, who had a career-high five goals during the regular season, gave the Kings a 2-1 lead.
Mike Richards took advantage of the first Los Angeles two-man advantage of one minute 11 seconds when he threaded a shot through the legs of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.
Ryan Kesler started the Canucks’ penalty parade when he came out of a post-whistle goalmouth scrum with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Chris Higgins compounded the problem by taking the first of two Vancouver delay-of-game penalties for firing the puck out of the rink.
“They’re tough calls,” Burrows said.
“Some of those calls, we made it easy on the refs, shooting pucks out of play. It’s part of the game. It doesn’t affect us. We’re going to move on and get ready for Game 2.”
Burrows and rookie Zack Kassian were assessed charging calls.
“Normally in April or May hockey that call’s out of the books but we saw them tonight,” Burrows said. “That’s fine with us. We just have to regroup and play better next game.”
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said the Kings were helped by Vancouver’s penalty troubles but were still the better team.
“You can’t take the number of penalties we took tonight,” Vigneault said.
“Our top personnel were playing tons of minutes. Instead of attacking, we’re killing penalties. It’s definitely not what we want to do.”
Penalty killer Jannick Hansen, who deflected Mitchell’s shot past Luongo, said the Canucks did well to enter the third period tied 2-2 despite the penalties.
“You can’t be too upset about that,” Hansen said. “It’s a pretty good result considering how many penalties we took.
“Maybe there was a little too much emotion where you take a hit at a guy right now and for some reason the refs were calling those. We need to be aware of that and take a little bit off it.”
Notes: The Canucks led the NHL in one-goal games with a 27-9-9 record during the regular season … Los Angeles was 17-14-15 … only the Minnesota Wild, with 177 goals, scored fewer than the 194 goals counted by the Kings in the regular season … the Kings outscored the Canucks 61-48 over the two clubs’last 20 games before the playoffs … the teams combined for 43 goals when Vancouver eliminated the Kings in a six-game first-round series in 2010.