April 16, 2012
Kings readying knockout punch
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI AGENCY
LOS ANGELES - Dustin Brown delivered a body check on Henrik Sedin worthy of a standing eight count.
Then the Los Angeles Kings captain put the Vancouver Canucks on the ropes.
Brown’s goal early in the third period was all the offence needed for a 1-0 victory Sunday, and has the NHL’s regular-season champs on the verge of elimination.
The Canucks, one of the top favourites to win their first Stanley Cup title, are down three-games-to-none in the best-of-seven opening round playoff series.
The Kings will go for the killshot Wednesday in Southern California.
“It’s important for us to understand we’re up 3-0 in the series and we’ve got to have that killer instinct,” Brown said. “We can’t take it easy now that we have a 3-0 lead. It’s the opposite. We have an opportunity to close out a series at home, and that’s going to be our main focus.”
Brown, who’s been a dominating force in all three games of this series, came through once again at a key time while his team was in dire need of a spark.
He lit a fire under his teammates midway through the second period when he caught Sedin standing still in front of the Canucks bench and the puck in his feet, and sent him flying to the ice with a hard check.
Then Brown scored the lone goal early in the final frame before the sellout Staples Center crowd of 18,352.
“It definitely picked us up and got us going, got us awake,” Kings centre Jarret Stoll said of Brown’s hit. “For whatever reason, we were kinda in quicksand a bit there, not getting the puck or moving our feet.”
Sedin, who went to the dressing room briefly but finished the game, said it was a clean hit and he was only winded.
He was more concerned about his team’s precarious position.
“We need to bring this back to Vancouver,” he said
The way things are going for the Canucks, it’s become increasingly harder to see that happening.
Once again they fired more than 40 shots on net, but they couldn’t solve Kings netminder Jonathan Quick.
The closest the Canucks came was when Jannik Hansen drilled a shot off the post and the rebound ricocheted off the skate of Alex Burrows but bounded just wide of an open net.
“When you put 40 shots on net, there are going to be some rebounds,” Sedin said. “We’re going to get to them sooner or later.”
It had better be sooner, because later will be much too late.
Now to see what the Canucks can do next. The biggest change they made after the first two games was to switch goaltenders, giving Cory Schneider his first NHL playoff start in place of veteran No.-1 Roberto Luongo, even though goaltending was hardly the big issue in the two losses in Vancouver.
Schneider can’t be faulted for the loss, since his team’s lack of offence is reaching a critical point.
“We probably deserved better, but that’s not the way the playoffs work,” Schneider said. “We got a lot of shots, but he’s seeing a lot of them. We had it in their end a lot, but we couldn’t get that perfect shot or that lucky bounce.
“You have to give them credit. They’re not giving us odd-man rushes and not many second chances. They’re playing a great team game right now.”
That game has the Canucks in dire need of a rarely seen playoff comeback against a squad which grabbed the eighth and final Western Conference post-season berth.
“We expect (they'll give) more," Stoll said of the Canucks. "We’ve got to give more. If we don’t, we’ll probably not be on the winning end.
“A team that has the experience they have from the last couple of years in the seasons they’ve had, they’re definitely not going to lay down.”
True, but the Canucks are on the verge of being knocked out.
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak