At even strength, the Vancouver Canucks have been superior to the Los Angeles Kings through three games of their Western Conference quarterfinal.
But the Canucks have been abhorrent while killing penalties and trail the best-of-seven series 2-1 heading into Game 4.
The Canucks fell 5-3 to the Kings Monday in the first NHL playoff game at Staples Center in eight years. They surrendered three power-play goals -- on just three opportunities -- and have allowed the Kings to convert seven of twelve opportunities in the series, or at least two in every game.
That's an average befitting Joe DiMaggio.
"The big difference right now, obviously, is specialty teams," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our penalty killing hasn't done the job, and our power play hasn't done the job. Our five-on-five play has been real good."
Goaltender Roberto Luongo was chased by a silver-and-black onslaught in the middle period, but the good news for Canuck Nation is that he does not have an hand injury. Luongo removed both his blocker and trapper, and had the trainer look at a finger on his left hand after Ryan Smyth skated over it.
Michal Handzus had two goals and an assist, while wunderkind defenceman Drew Doughty had a goal and three helpers before a sellout crowd of 18,264. Jack Johnson also had three assists.
The Canucks forged a gutsy comeback in the third period. A Daniel Sedin goal was disallowed after a long video review, where NHL officials in Toronto ruled the puck was kicked past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The Canucks quibbled with the ruling. Winger Alex Burrows said that anyone who has played hockey would not have come to that judgment, whereas Kings coach Terry Murray said that Sedin stretched his leg out to kick the puck.
"That was one quick look at it," Murray admitted. "It took quite a while to make that decision."
Undaunted, Sedin scored just seconds later, tipping home a point shot from Kevin Bieksa.
But the Sedin line had just one shot through two periods, and drew criticism from Vigneault for its work on the power play. Vancouver had nothing to show for four man-advantage opportunities and has two goals in 11 tries in the series.
The Kings led 4-2 after two periods, scoring two more power-play goals and sending Luongo to the bench with a softie.
Handzus scores his first goal when Luongo directed a rebound onto his waiting stick. He tallied his next goal with a goal-mouth rebound, after Sami Salo failed to block a Doughty point shot.
"We've got lay it all on the line when we're killing," Luongo said. "We've got to block some shots, and take some of the rebounds away."
Brad Richardson stole a puck from Aaron Rome in the Vancouver end, turned and fired, and beat Luongo through the five hole for the fourth goal. That was the cincher for the Canucks captain. He was replaced by Andrew Raycroft.
The Canucks went more than eight minutes before registering a second-period shot, but scored late to move within striking distance. Ryan Kesler forced a Doughty turnover, and fed Mikael Samuelsson for his third goal of the series.
The teams ended the first period tied 1-1 after the most physical 20 minutes of the series. Two Kings -- Smyth and Rich Clune -- left the game after bodychecks, but the home team continued to flash a potent power play.
The first period was defined by physical play.
Steve Bernier, who had a fantastic stanza, sent Clune off holding his left arm after a thunderous check in the Kings zone. Moments later, Alexander Edler hit Smyth, who banged his head against the board after falling down.
The former Edmonton Oiler wobbled off the ice, but both he and Clune returned. Murray said Smyth had the wind knocked out of him, and declared himself fit two shifts later.
Smyth scored the fifth goal, a slapshot that deflected off Christian Ehrhoff and past Raycroft with 10 minutes remaining.
Each team was credited with 22 hits, and the Kings blocked 14 shots. By the end, L.A. had 28 blocks to Vancouver's 13.