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A crushing blow

Canucks knock around two goalies to put Kings on the brink

April 24, 2010|HELENE ELLIOTT

VANCOUVER, CANADA — Is this how the Kings will allow their season to end, outmuscled and outclassed, fading away under a barrage of glove-side-high goals and giveaways that stain the memory of the progress they had made?

Their 7-2 loss to the Canucks on Friday at GM Place was an abomination of bad goaltending and bad defensive play, a deplorable effort by a team that had, rightfully, prided itself on its cohesion and resilience.

The Kings trail the Canucks, 3-2, in this best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series. It will end Sunday at Staples Center unless they find a goalie who can stop objects smaller than a beach ball and rekindle the team-first spirit that fueled their first playoff appearance in eight years.

A seventh game, if necessary, would be played in Vancouver on Tuesday, but forget about Jonathan Bernier riding in to save the day and get them to that point. Coach Terry Murray said he will go back to Jonathan Quick, who gave up four goals on 21 shots before yielding to an utterly ineffective Erik Ersberg and returned to give up the Canucks' seventh goal in the third period.

Murray said the difference between the first four games of this series, which were combative and close, and Friday's debacle was not getting big stops from his goaltender.

"You can't sugarcoat that. The goaltending wasn't good enough tonight. He had a tough night," Murray said.

"I think we screened some of those shots that were coming through. I think a couple of them were deflected. We've got to be better in front of him, and he has to be better himself and get himself ready for Game 6."

Murray immediately said Quick will start.

"He's been our guy. The one thing I've always liked about his attitude is that he could move through bad games and get himself prepared to play," Murray said.

Quick was replaced by Ersberg at 13:31 of the second period, just after the Canucks took a 4-1 lead. Vancouver scored twice on four shots against Ersberg in the third period -- a 60-foot blast by Pavol Demitra at 4:38 and a 35-foot wrist shot by Mikael Samuelsson at 6:31 -- prompting Murray to bring Quick back in.

He gave up the seventh goal, which was followed by a flurry of mindless fights.

No one in the Kings' locker room raised his voice. Perhaps they did that behind closed doors. Their calmly repeated mantra was that the score didn't matter and only the situation did.

"It could have been a 3-2 overtime heartbreaker or the loss we had. We just have to let it go," team captain Dustin Brown said. "It's one game and we still have an opportunity to tie and win this series.

"It's not what we wanted to have happen. We didn't have a lot of things tonight. But we can't sit here and analyze or feel bad for ourselves or dwell on it. We have another game in two days and if we win the game we'll be back where we are right now."

The Kings, intent on rebounding from a 6-4 loss in Game 4, competed well in the first period. The Canucks sandwiched goals by Steve Bernier from close range at 8:50 and Alex Edler off a nice pass from Jannik Hansen at 17:32 around the Kings' 10th power-play goal in 17 chances, a centering pass by Michal Handzus that caromed off Vancouver defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and past Roberto Luongo at 14:24.

"We were down, 2-1, but I thought our structure was there as a team. We played the right way," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "Once they got that next one, the third one, you could start to see some guys play like individuals. You're never going to come back one guy at a time. You need the whole team to do it."

The Kings began to unravel in the second period. The Canucks scored twice, when Daniel Sedin converted his own rebound at 8:26 and Samuelsson blasted a long, unscreened shot to the high glove side at 13:31 for a 4-1 lead.

Demitra made it 5-1 and Fredrik Modin cut that to 5-2 at 5:02 after a scramble in front. Samuelsson made it 6-2 when he ripped a slap shot past Ersberg's glove during a power play, his seventh goal of a series the Kings waited so long to play and now may exit more quickly than they'd hoped.

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