J.P. Hoornstra, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/The Sun
EL SEGUNDO - Fredrik Modin had just finished explaining how there's no time to look back on what he and the Kings have accomplished in three games against the Vancouver Canucks, when he was asked to look back on what the Kings have accomplished against the Canucks.
"Yeah, again, we're blowing things out of proportion," Modin said. "We feel good about our game, but we also know that it takes a lot more than these two wins to get this done."
Modin, a member of the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, knows they don't hand out trophies after three playoff games. Nor is there an award for frustrating twin superstars Daniel and Henrik Sedin - but maybe there should be.
Henrik led the NHL with 83assists and 112 points, and could well wind up winning the Hart Trophy. Daniel had 85 points, good for 12th in the league in scoring, despite missing 19 games due to injury.
Yet through two periods of Game 3 Monday, the twins had only one shot on goal between them. The Kings' checking line of Modin, Michal Handzus and Brad Richardson - playing just their second game together and their first 60-minute outing matched up against the Sedins - had 10.
Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault made a point to mention this statistic in his postgame news conference, a clear indication that the Kings' checking line had gotten into its opponent's head. Robbed of their firepower, the Canucks watched the Kings take a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series with a 5-3 victory.
Daniel eventually got his line on the board with a long-distance goal in the third period Monday. But the Kings' towering veterans, Modin and Handzus, along with the speedy Richardson, had won the battle for the second straight game.
"The only way you can do it is by checking very well," Kings head coach Terry Murray said. "That's got to be your mindset going into the matchup at the start of that shift. ... Once you get (the puck) back with Handzus, Modin and Richardson, those guys have the ability now to attack with some speed."
The textbook example came on the Kings' fourth goal Monday. Richardson hustled up the ice to strip the puck from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, then spun and shot in the same motion, finding space under the pads of Roberto Luongo before either he or the goaltender knew it existed.
Richardson actually led the Kings with five shots on goal; Handzus was second with four and Modin was next with three. The Kings' ability to maintain possession of the puck - as much as their hits - allowed their checking line to neutralize the Sedins.
"We definitely go out there to shut 'em down, but our goal is to get down in their zone," Richardson said. "If we can play offensively, a shift in their zone, they're not going to score. That's our goal, to keep the puck below their goal line. Freddy and 'Zus, two big guys, they're great at working it down low. You saw Freddy last night, he drew a penalty last night with a guy (Henrik Sedin) draped all over him, couldn't get the puck off. That's what we're trying to do."
Although they had not played together before Game 2 on Saturday, the chemistry came quickly. Richardson said it was particularly helpful to discuss positioning with Modin and Handzus during pregame video reviews. It also helps that Modin and Handzus are a pair of experienced veterans who can do more than check.
The 35-year-old Modin is long removed from his days as a 30-goal scorer with the Lightning, but has used his 6-foot-3 frame and an effective one-timer to score two power-play goals in the series. The 6-foot-5 Handzus scored 20 goals in the regular season and scored two more Monday.
On Tuesday, Murray recalled the seven-game 2004 Eastern Conference Finals series, when he was an assistant coach for Philadelphia, and Flyers center Handzus had three goals against Modin's Lightning.
"You saw the offensive part of the game always there with him," Murray said. "He's bringing it together right now."
Win or lose, when the Kings are able to look back on the series, the checking line/Sedin line matchup could prove the most critical.
Murray said that he will replace defenseman Peter Harrold with Randy Jones in Game 4. Jones was a healthy scratch the past two games.