VANCOUVER – Giving up a short-handed goal to a stingy defensive team in a playoff game is never a good thing.
The Western Conference defending champion Vancouver Canucks did it twice Friday in a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
Dustin Brown scored both at key moments as he staked the eighth-seeded Kings, who allowed the second-fewest goals during the regular season, to a pair of one-goal leads.
“They’re momentum killers,” said Canuck defenceman Kevin Bieksa as his club heads to Los Angeles down 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final.
“You go out on the power play looking to generate chances. A couple of unfortunate plays and it’s in the back of our net.”
“It’s no secret we’ve got to be better on the power play. We have to get on the same page.”
They don’t have much time. Game 3 is Sunday with a fourth on Wednesday.
Not only did the Canucks give up two goals while on the power play but the club with the NHL’s best record went 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
“The power play is not good enough right now,” understated captain Henrik Sedin, whose club is 0-for-10 for the series.
“Not only are we not scoring but we’re giving up goals. That can’t happen. That’s why we lose the game.”
Brown, who also scored in Wednesday’s 4-2 series-opening win and had 23 points in the last 22 games of the regular season, got his first goal with nine seconds left in the opening period.
Anze Kopitar anticipated an Alex Edler drop pass and picked up the loose puck in the Canuck zone.
Kopitar faked goalie Roberto Luongo to the ice but couldn’t jam the puck behind him. It came out to Brown who fired over a pile of bodies in the crease.
Brown gave the Kings a 2-1 lead after Jannick Hansen had equalized for Vancouver.
Willie Mitchell was off for holding when Brown got past Canuck point man Dan Hamhuis who fell while trying to gather a Ryan Kesler pass at the Los Angeles blue-line.
Brown outraced two defenders, deked Luongo and scored on the backhand at 5:17 of the second period, one of only six Los Angeles shots in the middle period.
“Special teams were the difference,” Luongo said.
“That being said, I’ve got to try to make a big save there when the game’s on the line. It was a tough one tonight.”
The short-handed goals came after Canuck coach Alain Vigneault tweaked his power-play, moving Hamhuis into Edler’s blue-line slot on the first unit.
“Tonight it was more than ineffective, it really cost us at bad times,” Vigneault said.
“Those are our best players and I’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys and they’ll get another opportunity to prove it come Sunday.”
The Canuck power play has struggled during the second half of the season.
In the first 42 games, Vancouver was 41-for-168 with the man advantage, a 24.4 per cent conversion rate that was tops in league.
Down the stretch, the Canucks scored on only two of 36 opportunities until they tallied twice in seven tries in a 3-0 win over Edmonton in their last game of the regular season.
Not only is Vancouver giving up goals with the man advantage, the Kings have a very respectable three goals on a dozen power-play chances.
“It’s just execution,” Kesler said.
“Execution and communication. We’ve got to forget about what just happened and worry about the next game.”
The short-handed goals deflated a better start for the Canucks than they had in Game 1 and negated their domination at even strength as they outshot Los Angeles 48-26.
“We’ve got to go in playing five-on-five the same way as we did tonight,” Kesler said. “If we do that in their building, I like our chances.”
Brown became the 12th player in playoff history to score a record two short-handed goals in one game.
The last time it happened was John Madden on April 24, 2006 in a 4-1 New Jersey Devils win over the New York Rangers.
Los Angeles was one short-handed goal shy of the team record of three set by Boston in 1981 and equalled by the New York Islanders and Edmonton in 1983 and Toronto 1994.
The Canucks have never started a playoff series down 2-0 when playing the first two games at home.
“It’s just about wins,” Sedin said of the challenge facing his club in Los Angeles.
“The process is there. It comes down to special teams. That’s usually where we win games but right now we’re losing.”
Notes: Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard had missed 31 games with concussion symptoms before replacing Aaron Rome on Friday … Henrik Sedin’s assist in Game 1 gave him 67 career playoff points, second on the Canucks’all-time list … the retired Trevor Linden leads with 95 points … Mike Richards’three Game 1 points saw the Los Angeles forward tie a career high.