As he skated back to the bench after being denied on a second-period breakaway, Vancouver Canucks sniper (and messiah) Daniel Sedin whacked his stick along the boards.
Sedin - who gave his team new life when he returned from a concussion for Game 4 - recognized the significance of the miss. He could have given the President’s Trophy-winning Canucks a stranglehold 2-0 lead and put them in position to return to California for Game 6.
Instead, his low blocker-side wrister was stopped by Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. It was a familiar theme - because for all the talk about Vancouver’s goaltending heading into this series, it was L.A.’s that was the difference.
Quick, the 26-year-old from Connecticut, kept his team in a game that - at least early on - they had no business winning. Time and again on Sunday night, the defending Western Conference champions had opportunities to put the Kings away.
Time and again, Quick wouldn’t let them. L.A. hung around and tied the game early in the third, winning it in overtime when Jarett Stoll rifled a shot past Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider.
“We always said in the locker room, ‘We might not win the President’s Trophy, but we’ll be battle-tested come playoff time.’ These are the games we’ve been playing all year. We’re used to that,” Quick told reporters after the Game 5 win.
L.A. moves on to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They’ll face the central division champion St. Louis Blues.
Vancouver moves on to an offseason of uncertainty.
Quick’s best flurry came in the second period. Moments before the Sedin breakaway, Jannik Hansen led a 2-on-1. The Vancouver winger elected to shoot but Quick charged out of the goal to make the save.
Also in that period, Quick turned back a Maxim Lapierre redirect from just in front of the net, then a Ryan Kesler rebound from the lip of the crease.
Quick made a total of 26 saves in Game 5 and was the second star. He gave up eight goals in the series and had a save percentage of .953.
Anze Kopitar, who had one goal and three assists in the series for L.A., said Quick’s save on Sedin was discussed in the locker room during the second intermission.
“We knew if we were going to do it [come back and win]that was the play that was going to do it,” he said.
Dustin Brown echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve said this for the last couple of years. This team, we’re definitely designed better for the playoff hockey than regular season. When you have a goalie like Quicker, it always gives you a chance on the road. He made some key saves.”
Quick was L.A.’s rock and the most outstanding player of the series, but the Kings received contributions from a bevy of players. Game 1 belonged to Mike Richards, who tallied three points. Ditto for Dustin Brown in Game 2. Brown scored the only goal in Game 3.
Following their 3-1 loss in Game 4, Darryl Sutter shuffled his lines for Game 4. He started Kopitar alongside Richards and Jeff Carter, the latter two having seen their production fall off over the course of the series. Sutter’s line-tinkering continued throughout much of the night.
The only line that seemed immune from the shuffling was L.A.’s best - its fourth unit. Brad Richardson, Jordan Nolan, and Colin Fraser kept the Canucks hemmed in their own end for long stretches - at times looking more like the Sedin twins than the Sedins themselves.
It was Richardson who scored L.A.’s first goal. Defenceman Drew Doughty dangled into the Vancouver zone, then threw the puck into the crease, where Richardson whacked it in.
L.A. was the better team in the third period and overtime, with the Canucks appearing on their heels. Willie Mitchell had a golden opportunity to win the game early in overtime, but couldn’t elevate the puck, shooting into Schneider’s pad when the top portion of the net was wide open.
That’s exactly where Stoll put the puck when he got his opportunity a short while later.
“I was shooting all the way,” he said. “I just saw a little bit of room up top.”