VANCOUVER - Yeah, about that desire to prove they can be the more physical team.
The Vancouver Canucks may want to reconsider trying to solely beat ’em in the alley and stick to beating ’em on the ice.
It didn’t work out in the first game of their opening-round playoff series, a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night. It likely won’t work out in the end if the Kings keep taking advantage.
“We have to channel our energy better and make sure we play better as a team,” Canucks winger Alex Burrows said.
Dustin Penner’s winning goal with just over three minutes remaining won’t go down as a power-play goal, but the ill-timed and ill-advised shenanigans through the first two periods ultimately proved costly for the Presidents’ Trophy winning Canucks against the Western Conference’s eighth seed to kick off the best-of-seven series before the sellout Rogers Arena crowd of 18,860.
It’s understandable the Canucks want to tell the world they won’t be pushed around after the Boston Bruins successfully used street-fight tactics to knock them out in last year’s Stanley Cup final, but the steady stream of players making their way to the sin bin helped the Kings gain all kinds of momentum, not to mention a pair of power-play goals.
Eventually the Kings earned the victory, well-earned considering they controlled the bulk of the game.
L.A.'s Mike Richards started the play on the winning goal by getting in the way of Alex Edler’s clearing attempt in the Canucks zone. Richards tried to feed a pass to Jeff Carter, but it went to his teammate's feet.
No problem. Carter directed the puck across to Penner and the oft-maligned winger made no mistake in front of a yawning cage.
It sure looked like Carter meant to show he has some soccer skills.
“I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Penner said. “You have to ask him, but it looked like it. I can see he might have because he could sense it wasn’t going on his tape and that was the best play.”
The Canucks saw their run of eight consecutive series opening victories come to a crashing halt.
Game 2 will be Friday in Vancouver.
Sure, the Canucks may have a legitimate beef or two about some of the calls that led eight Kings power plays in the first two periods alone, but Vancouver made some foolish plays.
For example, after a couple of charging infractions were called on the Canucks in the second period, Vancouver's Byron Bitz foolishly drilled Kyle Clifford from behind and was handed a major penalty and game misconduct.
“I haven’t seen it but I was told it was a penalty and told it was a good call,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of the decision.
Combine that with a couple of infractions for shooting the puck over the glass — we know, it’s a rule not everybody likes — and an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction on Ryan Kesler for a snow shower to Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, the Canucks' intelligence quotient can be called into question.
“Sometimes they’re tough calls,” said Burrows, the birthday boy who opened the scoring. “It’s playoff hockey, you’re going to see big hits, and I thought we had two or three charging calls.
“Some of those calls, we made it easy on the refs by shooting the pucks out of play.”
Richards and Willie Mitchell scored on the power play for the Kings.
The situation could have been worse for the hosts had it not been for the great goaltending of Roberto Luongo and his 35-save outing.
In fact, Edler’s goal with 7.3 seconds remaining in the second evened the count at two apiece going into the final frame.
But that just set the stage for Penner’s winner.
Dustin Brown iced it with an empty netter.
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