VANCOUVER, B.C. – After flirting with disaster, the Vancouver Canucks now have a chance to take control of their first-round series with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Canucks know they must play their best hockey to beat the Kings in Friday night’s crucial Game 5 at GM Place (10 p.m. ET). “We have put ourselves in a situation where we have home-ice advantage,” Henrik Sedin said Thursday. “Now we have to do something good about it.”
Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo said his team can play much better than it has thus far.
“We have had some good stretches, but we know we can be better as a group,” said the Canucks captain. “Tomorrow is a big game.
“We want to make sure we come out ready to play and establish our game right off the hop. It’s a game we need to win.”
The Canucks overcame three, one-goal deficits and Sedin scored with less than three minutes remaining Wednesday for a 6-4 victory that tied the series 2-2.
What started as a best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final now turns into a best-of-three. The teams play again Sunday in L.A.
The Kings, who are appearing in the playoffs for the first time in eight years, let a chance to take a 3-1 lead in the series slip through their fingers.
But veteran Ryan Smyth says his club can’t think about what-ifs and must concentrate on the task at hand.
“When we came into the series we knew it was going to be a long series,” Smyth said before boarding a flight to Vancouver. “It’s unfortunate we let (Game 4) slip.
“We have to win one game up there. If it’s (Friday) great, we can come back here and win it. We’ll just take care of Game 5 now.”
Anze Kopitar said sulking will only dig the Kings into a hole.
“It’s one of the those things in the playoffs, you just have to shake it off,” said Kopitar, who has two goals and four points. “The games are coming so quick that a win or a loss, you have a couple of minutes, then just look forward to the next game.”
Winning Game 4 pumped life into the Canucks’ playoffs hopes, but what really kept them alive was killing two Kings’ power plays late in the game. Prior to that Los Angeles had scored on six consecutive man advantages.
“We’re on a roll baby,” joked Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault. “I’ve never seen a situation like that, six power-play goals in a row.
“You have to try and persevere and fight through. That’s what we do. A lot of time things have a way of going back to normal.”
Overall the Kings are 9-for-16 on power plays and lead the playoffs at 56.2 per cent. Vancouver’s penalty kill is the worst of the 16 playoff teams at 43.8 per cent.
The Kings have managed just five even-strength goals against Vancouver.
“I don’t think we’ve given up many chances five-on-five,” said Sedin, who has one goal and four assists in the playoffs after winning the regular season scoring title.
“It’s our penalty kill that has hurt us so far. When you let in goals every penalty kill, they are going to get a lot of confidence. It was a step in the right direction the last game, and we have to take something positive from that.”
There have been suggestions that Vigneault has been out-coached by the Kings’ Terry Murray during the series, but the Canucks bench boss did some key line juggling Wednesday.
He had Henrik and his twin brother Daniel play on the penalty kill.
Vigneault was coy over whether the Sedins will be on the PK on Friday night.
“The twins can kill penalties, they’ve done it in the past,” he said. “If I’m giving them minutes, I’d rather those minutes be offensive minutes and power-play minutes.
“You kill penalties, it’s a lot of energy and blocking shots.”
Henrik Sedin doesn’t mind the extra work.
“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s a different way of helping the team.”
Vigneault also moved Mikael Samuelsson onto the twins’ line. Samuelsson, who won a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings, responded with his team-leading fifth goal of the series.
Alex Burrows, who led the Canucks with 35 goals during the regular season but has no points in the playoffs, was dropped to the second line.
“Alex can play better than what he has,” said Vigneault.
Burrows, who has spent a lot of time on the Canuck penalty kill, agreed.
“I have to get more intensity,” he said. “I have to get more shots on net.”
The Canuck chances will also depend on Luongo.
After being pulled in Monday night’s 5-3 loss, Luongo rebounded with one of his best games of the series Thursday.
So far this playoff Luongo has a 3.41 goals-against average and .871 save percentage.
“It’s all about winning games,” he shrugged. “You can’t beat yourself.
“In the playoffs, every little play is so important and could change the outcome of the game.”
L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick has a 3.06 GAA and .903 save percentage.
Vancouver will play without defenceman Nolan Baumgartner who suffered a suspected knee injury Wednesday. He will be replaced by Andrew Alberts.
Alberta has watched from the press box since being assessed 23 minutes in penalties, including a game misconduct, in the first two games of the series.
Burrows said the Canucks know the Kings will bring an edge into the game.
“They are going to be desperate,” he said. “They are going to be sour.
“It is going to be a big game with a lot of emotion and intensity. Hopefully we will come up on top.”
History isn’t on Vancouver’s side. The Canucks have won just one series in the seven times they have been tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven playoff.