J.P. Hoornstra, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/The Sun
LOS ANGELES - They have been waiting eight years to host a Stanley Cup playoff game at Staples Center.
For one night, it was worth the wait.
Michal Handzus scored twice, Drew Doughty had a goal and two assists and the Kings beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 to take a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series Monday.
The Kings' formula was simple: Draw a penalty and let the red-hot power play do its job. Entering the game on a 4-for-9 (44 percent) success rate - the best of any team in the playoffs - the Kings scored on their first three power plays Monday.
When Brad Richardson finally gave the Kings an even-strength goal to make it 4-1 at 13:21 of the second period, Alain Vigneault must have thought the sky had fallen. The Canucks head coach pulled Roberto Luongo from a playoff start for only the second time in the goaltender's career, giving 18,264 fans one last chance to collectively, derisively pronounce his last name.
Luongo, arguably, didn't even have the worst night among the Canucks' superstars.
Twin forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin were effectively contained by the Kings' checking line of Richardson, Handzus and Fredrik Modin. They appeared on the scoresheet only for a long-distance goal by Daniel that momentarily made it a game at 4-3 in the third period.
But Ryan Smyth's first goal of the series finished the scoring with 10:39 left in the third, and Jonathan Quick (25 saves) held strong with the Kings skating short-handed over the final two minutes.
A 6-on-4 Canucks advantage over the final 56.3 seconds did little against a Kings penalty kill that was perfect on four tries.
For the second consecutive game, the Kings had to battle back from a goal down to even think about chasing Luongo. Ryan Kesler circled behind the Kings' net, then threaded a backhand pass through the crease to Mason Raymond to get the Canucks on the board at 2:09.
Adding injury to insult, the Kings saw Rich Clune and Smyth hobble off the ice in succession after hard open-ice hits by Steve Bernier and Alex Edler, respectively.
The Kings' cure-all - on this night and in this series - was the power play.
Richardson drew a slashing penalty by the Canucks' Christian Ehrhoff at 9:31, and 31 seconds later Doughty found the back of the net from the high slot to tie the score 1-1. Smyth and Clune returned on the succeeding two shifts.
Next it was Modin's turn to draw the critical penalty, one that sent Henrik Sedin to the box for holding at 2:24 of the second period. Handzus scored his first goal of the playoffs at 4:06 by watching a long rebound squirt between the legs of Shane O'Brien and onto his stick to score the go-ahead goal.
By the time Mason Raymond was sent to the box for holding Anze Kopitar at 11:41 of the middle period, he must have known what was coming next. Handzus did the honors by scoring off another rebound at 12:18 to give the Kings a 3-1 lead and give Doughty - who took the initial shot - his third point of the game.
Richardson KO'd Luongo by humiliating Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome. Richardson stripped the puck from Rome in the defensive zone, then spun and shot between the legs of an unsuspecting Luongo at 13:21.
Mikael Samuelsson scored his team-high fourth goal of the series with 5:07 left in the second period to make it 4-2 heading into the third period.