Perhaps the scuba tanks were thrown off the Santa Monica Pier, because there certainly wasn't any diving Wednesday night at Staples Center.
The Vancouver Canucks staved off elimination with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings by earning their puck luck and leaving the referee-pleading, post-whistle shenanigans back at the hotel for the evening. By following the familiar roadmap towards winning an important road game, an opportunistic Canucks team received a terrific performance in net from Cory Schneider and won the special teams battle for the first time in a series it now trails three games to one.
"It was either continue to play or we were done," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I thought our guys in the first period were a little bit tight and they loosened up. I think they probably fed a little bit off Schneider's performance there. He was in total control and even though we were down 1-0, I thought we came out in the second period and got a little momentum and we finally got a bounce on our second goal. We hadn't had a bounce so far in this series, in my mind anyway. We got a bounce and built off that."
Vancouver earned the luck it received in spades. Referee Dan O'Halloran had blown the whistle during a live scrum in front of Schneider less than a second before the puck had been shoved into the net, protecting a narrow 2-1 lead in the second period.
Schneider also denied Kings catalyst Dustin Brown on a shorthanded penalty shot 22 seconds before Henrik Sedin's chip in off a broken setup gave Vancouver an important two-goal lead early in the third period. When Justin Williams rang a shot off the post on a clear attempt from the slot shortly afterwards, it became apparent that the visiting team was much better at benefitting from the game's fortunes.
"I think you get rewarded when you do it over and over, and I think we've done it all series," Henrik Sedin said about the team earning some bounces, an endeavor that had escaped them through the first three games of the series. "I think last game was a big step for us, and I think tonight we got rewarded. It's not going to come overnight, but if you keep doing it, it's going to come for you."
What did come overnight was the first line presence of Daniel Sedin, who played for the first time since suffering a concussion following a vicious elbow by Duncan Keith in a 2-1 overtime loss on March 21. After an ineffective first period, Daniel gained his footing and improved as the game progressed, adding more momentum and re-establishing a keen offensive dynamic with his twin brother, Henrik.
"As a team, I thought we came outlooking to see what was going to happen," Daniel Sedin said. "Especially our line, I think I was real hesitant out there, and that didn't help the line at all. After that, once they scored, I think we kind of realized we've got to go to work, and we took over the game."
While the Canucks have established some momentum heading back to Rogers Arena, don't expect Vigneault's bunch to commence the high-fives and cartwheels.
"We don't have a whole lot to feel good about. It's still a three-one hole," Schneider said. "But to build momentum, to get one win and then another, having Daniel back balances out our lineup. It makes our power play better. If our power play's going, then hopefully it makes them play a little more tentative and not play as aggressive as they want. But you know what? We have to keep it up. We can't just do it one game."
The Kings for much of the season relied more on character than their ability to find the back of the net. While it would be premature to think that doubt will begin to seep into their game due to their unwanted British Columbia return, it appeared that there were those in the L.A. locker room whose ears may have perked up slightly after Wednesday's loss.
"It's 3-1. It's a series again," Drew Doughty said. "It's close and now we're going into their barn and we'll be fired up for that game. We've got to make sure we come out with our best."
Encouraged by his team's response over the final 40 minutes of hockey, Daniel Sedin understood the ramifications of a still voluminous hole.
"It doesn't change anything. Only three teams have come back from three-nothing. Now it's three-one, but I think we only have a five percent chance of coming back. We're going to enjoy every day here, and come in to work with a smile on our face. That's all we can do, and that usually helps."