Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault challenged his top players to improve themselves in Game 4 of the team's Western Conference quarterfinal against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.
It took two-plus periods, but the Sedin twins and goaltender Roberto Luongo answered their coach's call.
Henrik Sedin scored the game-winning goal with less than three minutes remaining, and Luongo made some hellacious saves with the game on the line. The Canucks prevailed 6-4, erasing a second-intermission deficit, as has become their calling card this NHL season, to even the series 2-2.
Game 5 is on Friday at GM Place.
"This is the playoffs," Henrik Sedin said. "Last game, we were just as good in the third, but we were out of the game [trailing 4-2] and that's the difference."
Daniel Sedin had three third-period assists, while his brother had two points in the final period. Mikael Samuelsson continued his sizzling streak with his fifth goal of the series, while defenceman Christian Ehrhoff scored Vancouver's first goal and assisted on its second.
"I give Vancouver credit," Kings head coach Terry Murray said. "Their best players stepped up at a critical point."
The Canucks had 11 regular-season wins when trailing after two periods, and now have a postseason victory under the same circumstances.
Vancouver trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes, and 3-2 after two frames before the see-saw final period. Sami Salo gave the Canucks a 4-3 lead with a power-play goal, but Wayne Simmonds knotted the score just 62 seconds later. That came after Samuelsson's game-tying goal seven-plus minutes into the final period.
Meanwhile, Luongo returned to form, and made some series-saving stops in third. Dustin Brown tipped a point shot and had a certain goal before Luongo reached out and snared the puck on a bounce. The Canucks captain then stopped Alexander Frolov on a breakaway.
In the first period, Luongo robbed Brad Richardson with a glove save. He turned away 22 of 26 shots.
"It was important for me not to let the next one in and give them a two-goal lead," Luongo said. "A lot of guys grinded it out, especially in the third period, and not only scored some huge goals, but made some big plays in the [defensive]zone."
For the fourth consecutive game, the Kings scored multiple power-play goals, and the Canucks must still repair a wretched penalty-killing unit before this series is done. L.A. went 2-for-4 with the man-advantage, and are now nine of 16 through four games.
The Kings also extended a streak of six consecutive conversions after power-play goals from Brown and Drew Doughty in the opening 40 minutes.
Vancouver finally stopped the slide by erasing a high-sticking call on Jannik Hansen midway through the second. Vigneault also tried everything to snap the slump, even using the Sedin twins - who rarely play on shorthanded units - for more than two minutes each.
"They had scored six in a row - I had to try something," Vigneault said. "I think guys were doing cartwheels on the bench [after the kill]"
The Canucks were tight in the first period, but opened up and played a high-tempo, offensive-minded game in the third. It put pressure on Luongo, but it did the same to the Kings.
Simmonds and Anze Kopitar were caught behind Luongo's net on the game-winning goal, while Ryan Smyth was caught flat-footed. It turned into an odd-man rush and Henrik Sedin, instinctively a passer, shot the puck for his first goal of the postseason.
"When you have a lead in the third period, you have to nail that thing down," Murray said. "This is part of the process, you've got to get through it."Report Typo/Error