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Roberto Luongo.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Sami Salo and Alexander Edler.

"All of those guys need to be better," Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said yesterday with his team down 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings in their NHL playoff series. "They know they need to be better. And they will be better because they've done it for us in the past and I'm confident that they're going to do it for us again."

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Anything less, and the Canucks will be making an earlier-than-expected exit from the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 4 goes tonight at Staples Center, and Vancouver's long list of aims include better goaltending, some semblance of penalty-killing competency, and an improved power play.

Vigneault was equal parts sugar and spice as he dissected Vancouver's struggles against the less-experienced, less-star-studded Kings. He challenged his best players - mostly Luongo and twins, who are all signed to long-term contracts - to rise up, but he also expressed optimism that they would do so.

"You take those guys, and you put your trust in them," Vigneault said. "They're ready for this moment. This is their time. And they're going to get it done."

Luongo, pulled from Game 3 after allowing four goals on 16 shots, was in good spirits, and even cracked a joke at his own expense - which almost never happens with this hyper-intense competitor, who rarely even acknowledges personal failings.

Asked what he feels after being pulled, the Canucks captain quoted from the movie Slap Shot: "I feel shame," he said.

Luongo, who will earn $10-million (U.S.) next season, the first of a 12-year extension, has now been yanked five times since Jan. 30. He has allowed 12 goals in his last game and a half at Staples Center, which includes an 8-3 regular-season thrashing on April 1.

"We've all seen that it's happened to me the last month or two, but it's the capability of bouncing back ... which I thought I've done a good job every time it's happened," he said. "Hopefully, this will be the last time."

The Sedin twins have scored three even-strength goals in the series, not including Daniel's disallowed tally in Game 3, and a power-play goal. But on Monday in Game 3, they went two periods and generated just one shot while being dominated by L.A.'s checking line.

Shutdown centre Michal Handzus had two goals, and the Kings kept the Sedins on the defensive, particularly in the second period.

"Modin and Handzus are really big players, and they like to hang onto the puck in the offensive zone," Daniel Sedin said. "We have to come up with different ways to get the puck back from them. Every time they have the puck in our end, it seems like we're there for 30 or 40 seconds and that takes a lot of energy."

Burrows, who plays with the Sedins, is without a goal in the series, and hasn't lit the lamp in his past nine. He and Kesler are Vancouver's chief penalty-killing forwards, and that unit has allowed seven goals in 12 opportunities this series. They've permitted goals on four successive Kings power plays, and on five of the past six chances.

Edler and Salo, the top two defencemen, are also special-teams regulars, and Vigneault lumped them in with his bigger stars as he discussed his team's woes. But the coach also put a bull's eye on Luongo, suggesting that a timely save or two might jump-start Vancouver's short-handed play.

"When you talk about penalty killing, the best penalty killer is usually your goaltender," he said. "He has another opportunity [tonight]to be a difference-maker. He wants that opportunity ... and he's going to seize the moment."

Follow on Twitter: @mattsekeres

 

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