Mikael Samuelsson was the only Vancouver Canuck on the ice Thursday who owns a Stanley Cup ring, and that winning experience bailed his team out in its NHL playoff opener.
Samuelsson scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Canucks emerged with a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. Game 2, also at GM Place, is scheduled for Saturday.
"I thought he played a strong game," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said of Samuelsson, a former Detroit Red Wings winger who was signed as an unrestricted free agent last summer. "Hopefully, that experience and that seizing-the-moment rubs off on other guys."
The victory only came, however, after Roberto Luongo made a miraculous save in the extra session, swiping a puck off the goal-line when it appeared L.A.'s Jack Johnson had sealed the upset.
"Definitely, I was panicking," said Luongo, who made 25 saves and was rock solid after an uneven last six weeks. "[But]once I swiped it off the line, I knew it hadn't crossed."
Goaltender Jonathan Quick was superb for the Kings, stopping 41 shots, including a game-saver on Henrik Sedin in overtime.
"Great effort on his part," said teammate Jarret Stoll, who scored one of two power-play tallies for the visitors. "It's too bad we didn't win for him."
The clubs entered the third period tied 2-2, both having dodged bullets.
For the home team, danger lurked in the second period after defenceman Andrew Alberts received a game misconduct for charging Kings forward Brad Richardson.
Alberts, playing for an injured Aaron Rome (undisclosed), hit the Kings winger from behind, and Richardson left clutching his face. He returned later in the frame.
Los Angeles's Fredrik Modin scored on the ensuing five-minute, and by rule, Alberts will be suspended for one game if he receives another game misconduct penalty in the postseason. The check -- from behind and with a forearm to the neck -- could also be reviewed by the NHL.
"I think the referee's made the correct call," Kings head coach Terry Murray said.
Earlier in the period, Vancouver erased an early deficit.
Samuelsson tied the score 1-1 with a power-play goal three minutes into the stanza. Five minutes later, Daniel Sedin gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead, cutting to the net from left wing and lifting a backhand over Quick.
That goal, and the winner, both came after L.A. turnovers against Vancouver's top line. Those miscues, and a paucity of chances in the third period, were areas that Murray flagged in his post-game comments.
The visitors opened scoring with a power-play goal from Stoll just 54 seconds into second. The former Edmonton Oiler walked off the point and beat Luongo glove side.
Quick was splendid in the opening 20 minutes when Vancouver had 17 shots on goal and generated seven chances, several by Alex Burrows. The 24-year-old American had lost his last six decisions in the regular season -- and is winless in his last nine starts -- and there was some concern that he might be fatigued after making a club-record 72 starts this season.
Murray admitted that he was also concerned about his inexperienced group, and how they would handle the postseason stage in a rabid Canadian hockey market. But he said his fears were allayed before the puck was dropped because of the mood in the pre-game dressing room.
"I like the way we played," Murray said. "It can be a little intimidating, but I thought we handled it well."
The Kings are returning to the postseason for the first time in eight years, and they haven't won a series since 2001. Seven players were participating in their first playoff game last night, including Quick, defencemen Drew Doughty and Johnson, and forwards Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
Doughty was the recipient of a welcome-to-the-playoffs hit from Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler, who was far more physical than usual. Edler lambasted the Canadian Olympian with an open-ice hit as Doughty cut to the net.
The Swedish defenceman was credited with a game-high six hits, and responded to a conversation with the coaching staff, in which he was told to raise his intensity level.