They make quite a pair — Canucks Mikael Samuelsson (right) congratulates fellow two-goal scorer Steve Bernier after one of Samuelsson's goals in the second period of Friday's NHL playoff game at GM Place.
Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG
VANCOUVER — Somewhere in Sweden, Bengt-Ake Gustafsson is in hiding.
In Detroit, Red Wings GM Ken Holland lies awake at night wishing he’d tried harder to fit Mikael Samuelsson in under the NHL’s salary cap.
And in Vancouver, Samuelsson keeps adding to his amazing story, scoring his sixth and seventh goals of the playoffs on Friday night to lead the Canucks to a 7-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings at GM Place, giving Vancouver a 3-2 series edge in the Western Conference quarter-final heading back to Staples Center for Sunday’s Game 6.
“It feels good,” the even-keeled Swede said. “But we haven’t won anything yet.”
Samuelsson was deemed too old and slow by Gustafsson for Team Sweden at the Vancouver Olympics, and too expensive for Holland to keep around on his star-studded, expensive roster.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis made what’s turned out to be one of the best off-season free-agent signings in the NHL when he snapped up Samuelsson for $7.5 million over three years.
Since being snubbed for the Games (the Swedish coach instead went with journeyman plugger Mattias Weinhandle from Modo), the 33-year-old Samuelsson has scored 27 goals in his last 40 games.
He tied two Canucks playoffs records Friday, Pavel Bure’s for most goals in one series (seven) and Cliff Ronning’s for most consecutive games with a goal (five).
“I did?” Samuelsson said. “I’ll look back on that later.”
Samuelsson’s continuing heroics overshadowed Steve Bernier’s second and third goals of the series, Pavol Demitra’s fine play and another sublime outing from Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
“When Pav is driven like that, it shows how useful he can be,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Canucks, just 7-of-16 on the penalty kill coming into the game (43.8 per cent), killed 4-of-5 this time out.
The Kings had two power plays last for just eight and 26 seconds, respectively, before Ryan Smyth took goalie interference penalties for bumping Roberto Luongo, but the one power-play goal the Kings did get was a fluky puck off Christian Ehrhoff’s skate that trickled past Luongo to make the score 1-1 at 14:24 of the first period.
Alex Edler, Daniel Sedin and Demitra joined Samulesson and Bernier as Canucks goal-scorers, while Fredrik Modin added a meaningless goal for L.A.
It was so bad, Kings coach Terry Murray pulled his goalies twice.
“A couple of early goals he (Jonathan Quick) was off his angle, off centre,” said Murray, who pulled Quick after the score was 4-1 at 13:31 of the second period, then put him back in after it was 6-2 at 6:31 of the third.
“Consistency is huge. Quick needs to be better.”
Heading into Sunday’s do-or-die game for Los Angeles, Samuelsson said don’t read much into Friday’s score.
“They’ll want to come back hard,” he said. “We’re not taking anything for granted.
“We got a little carried away with the score, but it doesn’t really mean anything.
“There’s still a long way for us to go.”VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks will have an opportunity Sunday night to write a Hollywood ending to their first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings.
You have to like their chances.
The Canucks clearly have the Kings dazed and on the ropes after Friday night's lopsided 7-2 win in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final series at General Motors Place. They can deliver the knockout punch Sunday night at the Staples Center.
The Sedin twins and new linemate Mikael Samuelsson came up big again as the Canucks chased starting goaltender Jonathan Quick late in the second period and then also sent backup Erik Ersberg to the bench early in the third.
The Kings may have to bring Rogie Vachon out of retirement for Game 6.
"It is a good feeling when you can put seven on the board," said centre Ryan Kesler. "When you have four lines going like that it is tough for the other team to defend. That's what we had tonight. We had all four lines going."
The Canucks did indeed spread their scoring around. Samuelsson, who now leads the NHL with seven playoff goals, had two Friday night and so did Steve Bernier, who seems to have become a different player in the playoffs. Pavol Demitra, who had his best game of the post-season, added a goal and two assists. Daniel Sedin scored his third of the playoffs and added an assist and defenceman Alex Edler also scored for Vancouver.
The Canucks head to Los Angeles Saturday afternoon with momentum clearly on their side. They have outscored the Kings 11-3 in the last four periods and Quick, after a shaky performance in the third period of Game 4, wasn't good again on Friday night.
He was pulled and replaced by Ersberg after Samuelsson, finishing off some tic-tac-toe passing with the twins, scored his sixth goal of the series at 15:56 of the second to give Vancouver a 4-1 lead.
About seven minutes earlier, Samuelsson set up Vancouver's third goal. After Henrik Sedin won a faceoff, Samuelsson fed a pass to Daniel Sedin behind the net. He skated out front and put his own rebound past Quick from close range.
Ersberg didn't fare any better than Quick. Demitra made it 5-1 at 4:38 of the third when he took a pass off the rush from defenceman Kevin Bieksa and whistled a slap shot over Ersberg's right shoulder.
Fredrik Modin answered just 24 seconds later when he put a rebound off a Matt Greene shot past Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. But Samuelsson scored his second of the night at 6:31 of the third, beating Ersberg high to the glove side from the left circle. Ersberg was yanked after surrendering two goals on four shots and Quick had to return.
Vancouver's top line has been dominant since Samuelsson joined the twins part way through Game 4.
"We are finding each other out there," Henrik Sedin said. "He is easy to play with and has a great shot. He tries to get open and we try to give him the puck. It's a lot of fun right now, but we have a big game Sunday night."
In addition to his two assists, Henrik had a huge night in the faceoff circle, where he won 19 of 23 draws.
Samuelsson cautioned that the Canucks can't take anything for granted in Game 6.
"Obviously, we came out knowing Game 5 was really big and really wanted to play 60 minutes good," he said. "We said that in both intermissions, that we had to keep playing.
"They're obviously not happy," Samuelsson said of the Kings. "They are going to come back hungry. That's the thought we should have. We are not taking anything for granted. We got a little carried away with the score, but it doesn't really mean anything. There's still a long way to go for us. We still have the hardest game to win, I think."
When Quick returned to the game in early in the third, it only took the Canucks about three minutes to put another puck past him as Bernier beat Kings defenceman Sean O'Donnell to a rebound off an Andrew Alberts point shot for his second of the game at the 9:50 mark.
The game didn't look like it was going to be a blowout in the first period.
The Canucks needed a late goal from Edler to emerge from the first with a 2-1 lead. Bernier had given the Canucks a 1-0 lead 8:50 into the first. The goal came after Kyle Wellwood had missed an empty net after a set-up from Demitra. But Wellwood's shot bounced off the end boards to Bernier who had most of the net to shoot at for his second of the playoffs.
The Kings tied it with their 10th power-play goal of the series at 14:24 when Michal Handzus threw a puck out in front from behind the net and had it bounce off the right skate of Canuck defenceman Christian Ehrhoff and through the legs of Luongo.
The Canuck penalty-kill had its best game of the series, killing five of six L.A. power plays, including a 28-second 5-on-3 opportunity late in the second.
"That was something we needed, especially that 5-on-3," Kesler said. "It was 4-1 at the time and if they get one on the 5-on-3 then all of a sudden it's 4-2 and they are still on the power play. I think we are finally starting to play better on the PK."
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