What was expected from the outset of the Kings-Canucks game in LA Monday was retribution. The cause? Dustin Brown’s hit on Roberto Luongo a few nights ago which hurt the goalie’s knee and cost him two games on IR and more games missed, including a loss the night after the incident to Anaheim.
Vancouver has never been known as the cleanest team. Recent cast members who might be counted as being on the edge many nights have included Zack Kassian, Tom Sestito, and Mason Raymond. Dale Weise also comes to mind, a tough guy. It’s not like their whole game is old-style Philly tough, but the Canucks have been known to take a chunk or two out of an opposing finger when provoked.
On this night, after a fight- and penalty-filled affair, their coach described their approach in code. “I thought that in all parts of our game, we played well. . . . There were a lot of things that I thought we stepped out of, into a different level.” Note the peculiar syntax. A mid-thought reversal perhaps? He continued when asked about the fact that the team was shorthanded a lot early. “It is what it is. We did our job.” Not in penalty killing, but in . . . what? In revenge. He was largely inaudible in his presser, talking to the Vancouver media and turning away from the rest of us, but he also said, “We crossed a couple of bridges.” To where? To fightland. And there’s no way he didn’t know before the game that that’s where things were headed.
Given their chippy, cheapshot reputations, it’s not like the Canucks would stand by and let their netminder take a whack without doing something about it. Brown, further, is known around the league for tough play and hits, but he has, at certain moments, a predatory demeanor that must have gotten under people’s skin a time or two. At the outset of the game, Brown was on the receiving end of a hook which cost the Canucks two minutes, but it was more coincidental than anything.
But not too long after that penalty expired, the Kings’ Jordan Nolan hit one of the Sedins at the Vancouver blueline. Off the faceoff which came at the next stop in play, Sestito attacked Nolan. Now, Nolan’s no small man, and he’s not averse to a scrap, but there was no need for this one, and he simply didn’t respond. Mr. Sestito, for his trouble, was then awarded the biggest string of PIM’s in recent memory.
That is, two for instigator. Five for fighting. Ten for instigator misconduct, and a game misconduct. What happened after this is nearly comical. Since Nolan didn’t fight, the five for fighting actually counted as a five-minute power play. And you can imagine the kind of damage the Kings could inflict on that. Especially since it was added to the two. And then they piled on with a hook by Henrik Sedin, which gave the Kings a five-on-three and made the overall power play more than eight minutes long.
And what’s funny about that? The Kings did nothing with it. Nothing. They got a couple of shots on goal, but at the end of the period, they had just seven. Now to be fair, of late they’ve been shooting a lot, and in fact, their radio analyst, Daryl Evans, said before the game that he thinks that focusing on the shots stat is a mistake, because going for it can sometimes prompt a team into focusing on that alone, without seeing that not all shots are as valuable as each other.
OK, but to get essentially nothing out of having an extra man for nearly half a period? Inexcusable. Brown commented as much afterwards. “It was a very unique situation. I think that’s the first time I’ve had nine straight minutes of power play time to start the game. I don’t know that I have an answer [as to why the Kings failed] other than not being ready to go. I mean, it’s five, six seconds in. I think we ended up with six shots, and it’s not good enough.” He did mention that the Canucks are the best PK team in the league, but he said that that’s not an excuse.
Anyway, the penalty-filled game continued, as the incident with Sestito was followed shortly by both Willie Mitchell and Zack Kassian getting ten minute misconducts for pushing. Well, it wasn’t exactly stated that way, but that’s about all they appeared to do to one another in the corner at the right of the Kings’ net. Perhaps the referees thought that by liberally handing out the minutes of rest, they’d get the game under control.
No such luck. The violence continued into period two.
Brown and Ryan Kesler fought with just six seconds gone in period two. It wasn’t the most aggressive scrap in history, but it wasn’t just hugging and holding, either, and hopefully it did two things: put an end to the Brown versus Luongo incident, and proved to the league that Brown is not afraid to back up his aggressive play. Now, here’s a prediction: he did well enough to be somewhat feared, but not well enough to not be tested again. It will happen soon, if not immediately, given that nobody in the West seems to fight much any more.
Jarrett Stoll commented on that fight, “It was good for Brownie and the team that he stepped up against Kessler and our team.” He also called the game “a weird game. It was an intense, physical, cheap game at times.” Indeed. But then he put the game in larger perspective. “We were 3-0 against them this season, and they needed a pushback.”
Brown himself was more confident and resigned to things than I expected in his spot in the locker room after the game. His body language said he was not afraid, even before the evening’s events, which is what a team wants of its captain. His words backed this up. “It’s no different from other games,” he said, having a bullseye on his back. “What they were upset about was what happened with Luongo, but I’ve been in that situation before.” He said that last with a brief chuckle. But he added that “It’s probably right up there” in terms of most hostile game he’s ever been in.
And trust Coach Sutter to put his unique spin on things. “Obviously their mindset was to come out and do what they did early in the game, get through it and carry on.” In other words, their team, not to say their coach, had things scripted ahead of time.
And if that wasn’t enough, he rubbed it in as his comments went along. Now, don’t expect this to make perfect sense, but this is how he said things:
“We decided the last couple of days that we weren’t going to take no shots. We were only going to practice running the goalie, because we had to do a better job because that’s what they said we do, so we had to do a better job, but we forgot to shoot the puck because we did that.” He then described the goal by Brown, or perhaps the play when Brown hurt Luongo, with reference to the famous flying goal of Bobby Orr. “You stop the tape, you see he scored the goal off the rebound, jumped in the air, tried to avoid the goalie, but while he was doing it he got the goalie, so he scored a goal, jumped in the air, it was like Bobby Orr against Glenn Hall, so we’ve got to practice that more.”
Back to period two. With Brown out of the box for about half a minute, Matt Greene and Kevin Bieksa went at it, with Bieksa throwing off his gloves first. But Greene got the instigator penalty. He also got some revenge, wrestling the Vancouver player to the ice, hard, in an MMA-worthy move. For his trouble, the LA player got the two-five-ten treatment. As if he hadn’t had enough rest in being scratched for the past four games.
And that wasn’t all. Worse than these essentially fair and agreed-upon fights was the slewfoot of Drew Doughty out near the Vancouver blueline by Dale Weise. The pattern was established by this point–this game was going to be a cross between a playoff contest and an old-school brawl.
The period went on with another odd, phantom call. Henrik Sedin got two for holding. Fine. But then as the play paused at the whistle, Kassian was issued a ten-minute misconduct. This was the thirteenth penalty issued to the Canucks, where the Kings had seven. Minutes-wise, that put Vancouver at 67 minutes. The Kings sat on 36.
The shots through two periods were 17-12 in the Canucks’ favor, and the only real chance of consequence had come before the end of the first period when the Sedins had had a shift where they ran around in the Kings’ end and got off a shot that Quick had to save with his blocker.
The other dangerous chance was when Doughty lost the puck behind his own net and Jannik Hansen fed it to the front of the net for a try.
Period three saw the Kings open with a goal on a three-on-one play with Doughty and Kopitar flowing down the ice with Brown holding the puck on the right wing. He fed Kopitar, who sent it back, who sent it back, who sent it back—one too many passes, but they made it work as Brown buried the puck behind Eddie Lack.
They appeared to back it up later in the period when Williams took a rising slapshot that Richards deflected down into the net behind the goalie. The netminder immediately put his catching glove in the air to signal a high stick and after a brief review on the ice, that was what was called. They did a video review upstairs also, and that proved the case behond a doubt, with the game remaining at 1-0 for LA. That’s how it ended, and the penalty train put on the brakes as well. The Canucks had one minor in period three, and the Kings two.
Luongo remains out, with Joacim Eriksson backing up Eddie Lack.
The Kings scratched Frattin, Fraser, and Martinez.
When asked for an update on Greene, who “did not finish the game,” Sutter said, “He did not finish the game. I just couldn’t believe it [hard to hear]. I walked in here, and he was walking out. That’s the update. He wasn’t on the bench. I think I told him to go to the dressing room. He got in a fight and didn’t come back.” At least, that’s what it sounded like.