Do you believe in miracles?
Fine, so the Los Angeles Kings heading home with a 2-0 series lead isn’t quite on par with the U.S. shocking the Soviets at Lake Placid.
But even the most fervent Kings fan can’t have predicted this. The number eight seed stormed into Vancouver and took two of two from the Canucks.
Or, as they’re also known, the President’s Trophy winning Canucks. The defending Western Conference champion Canucks. And, if they don’t pull it together soon, the looking-for-a-tee-time Canucks.
If their victories were cause for celebration, the Kings didn’t show it following Game 2. There was no locker room jubilation and few smiles - just the sense that the hardest work lies ahead.
“We have to take care of business at home. Obviously, we’re very excited to get two here but there’s still some work to be done,” said centre Anze Kopitar.
The Kings outscored Vancouver 8-4 over the two games. Los Angeles was better with the man advantage, going 3-for-12 as opposed to Vancouver’s 0-for-10. Throw in two shorthanded goals and the Kings have had a massive special teams edge.
Much has been made of Vancouver’s power play struggles. The team finished the regular season on a horrendous 4-for-42 run.
But to put all the blame on the Canucks for their PP struggles in this series would be a disservice to the work of the Kings. Los Angeles has aggressively attacked puck carriers, gotten sticks into passing and shooting lanes, and worked harder along the walls. Vancouver’s had a difficult time just getting set up, let alone generating chances.
“We want to be aggressive,” said Kopitar, who has two points in the series. “If you give those guys time, they’re going to pick you apart.”
Dustin Brown, who scored the two shorthanded goals in Game 2, said much the same.
“We’ve changed a couple things against Vancouver, just because they’ve been a team that’s been pretty successful all year on the entry and possession plays. We want to make it hard for them to get in the zone with possession. They have really high-skilled forwards and if we can try to make them put it on the wall, that increases our chances of killing off the penalty.”
Brown’s first shorthanded goal came late in the first period after a Kopitar steal. Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler left a back pass for David Booth - a breakout the Canucks often run on the power play - and Kopitar picked it off. The play ended seconds later with Brown rifling a wrister past a sprawling Roberto Luongo.
“A lot of teams are doing that nowadays,” Brown said of the back pass. “Them and Detroit are probably the two teams that do it best. We’re aware of that and trying to deter that because it is a hard play to defend. We take away that, it makes it harder for them to come in with possession.”
Added Kopitar: “We wanted to get in there and get a couple bumps on them and create turnovers. Usually off turnovers you get some good scoring chances and we were able to bury a few tonight.”
Brown’s second shorthanded goal came in the second period, after Dan Hamhuis missed a pass from Ryan Kesler. Brown broke in all alone on Luongo and deked to the backhand, giving the Kings a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Kings generated a Twitterverse controversy following Game 1, after a tweet from the team’s official account mocked the Canucks. It said: “To everyone in Canada outside of B.C. - you’re welcome.” The tweet referred to the Vancouver team’s perceived lack of popularity outside its home province. (An Angus Reid poll released Friday said the Toronto Maple Leafs are the most hated team in Canada, followed by the Montreal Canadiens.) The Kings later apologized for the tweet.
However, the person at the account’s helm didn’t shy away from tweets in Game 2 that were... let’s say, less than sportsmanlike.
Said one of Canucks centre Maxim Lapierre: “is Lapierre reciting a monologue? He hasn't stopped chirping for 5 minutes.”
Another tweet poked fun at the Game 1 controversy and read: “We apologize in advance for anyone this tweet offends: #LAKings lead series 2-0”
There appeared to be little outrage from despondent Canucks fans this time around.