Los Angeles 1 Vancouver 0: Canucks come out swinging as bad blood boils over in L.A.
Tom Sestito #29 of the Vancouver Canucks starts a fight with Jordan Nolan #71 of the Los Angeles Kings, resuting in a seven minute man advantage for the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Staples Center on January 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Canucks would come up short in a 1-0 loss to L.A.
Photograph by: Harry How, Getty Images
LOS ANGELES — Canucks coach John Tortorella wanted more bite. He didn’t expect it from Paul Devorski.
On a night when you knew the Los Angeles Kings would target Henrik and Daniel Sedin again — they’re one of the few NHL clubs who physically go after the twins — the trickle-down effect of Jordan Nolan slamming the Vancouver captain Henrik into the Plexiglas in the opening minutes and then refusing to fight Tom Sestito had senior referee Devorski reaching for his calculator and Tortorella reaching for the rule book Monday at the Staples Center.
At the end of a bitter bad-blood battle, the Kings would claim a 1-0 victory, but this wasn’t about the points or the fact the Kings have four regular-season wins over the Canucks for the first time in 23 years. It was about making a point and maintaining a resilient collective mindset that Tortorella has been drilling into his troops.
“I thought we did a real good job as far as deciding that’s our ice also,” said Tortorella. “It’s been a minus in our game. We got squat for points but we crossed a couple of bridges in what needs to be done.”
The effort easily overshadowed the return of Alex Edler from a knee injury because of the bizarre nature in which the script unfolded. How Sestito wound up with two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting, 10 minutes for instigating and a game misconduct had the Canucks scratching their heads.
And while Rule 46.2 states “a player who is deemed to be both the instigator and aggressor of an altercation” is penalized in that fashion, it probably said more about Nolan’s unwillingness to finish something he started. Devorski simply doled out what’s in the book and Nolan turned a game into an alley fight of retribution and 109 penalty minutes.
The resulting seven-minute power play and the 10:13 of man-advantage time the Kings had in the opening period — including a 5-on-3 for 48 seconds — only galvanized the Canucks and their top-ranked penalty kill.
Tortorella challenged Ryan Kesler and the centre responded by winning all eight of his first-period draws and then dropping the gloves with U.S. Winter Olympics teammate Dustin Brown six seconds into the second period. It was probably payback for the ankle injury Roberto Luongo suffered here Jan. 4 when the agitating winger scored off a rebound and also crashed into the out-stretched starter to erase a 1-0 Canucks lead.
“Everything that happened with Roberto last game, he (Brown) knew from the opening puck drop he had to fight someone,” said Kesler. “A lot of guys stuck up for each other. We outbattled and outhit and we dominated them and they got a lucky bounce on a 3-on-1 (goal). That was a big statement by our team. In the past that team tries to bully you. I felt we were good all game.”
The Monday mayhem continued with Kevin Bieksa being penalized for a cross-check on Brown and the Canucks defenceman then had to answer to Matt Greene in another bout. Dale Weise would slew-foot Drew Doughty and be called for goalie interference when Jonathan Quick went down like he was shot. Zack Kassian had two 10-minute misconducts.
“One of the most positive losses you can have,” said Bieksa. “We were going to make a statement whether they liked it or not. After the first period, they were skating around and saying: ‘What’s up with you guys tonight?’ We obviously got their attention and we’d like to play like this every night.”
The issue was finally settled when Brown finished off a 3-on-1 break early in the third period. After Anze Kopitar failed on the backhand and Chris Tanev went sprawling on his stomach with Dan Hamhuis caught on the pinch, the Kings captain shovelled the puck past Eddie Lack. A Mike Richards deflection of a Justin Williams point shot midway through the final period was ruled above the crossbar.
In three previous meetings this season, the Canucks held a lead in two encounters yet fell 5-1, 3-2 and 3-1 to the Pacific Division rival because of crucial mistakes and being physically crushed. The Sedins were held to a combined four points in those games and the coach’s call Monday was to be better in all areas on a line with the promoted Zac Dalpe.
“We played a great game,” said Henrik Sedin. “It was one of our best games of the year if you look at the way we were battling and getting in the forecheck and everything you need to win games. We were right there.”
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