It paid off in his postseason debut in Vancouver on Thursday night.
Shortly after Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo(notes) swept a puck off the goal line, Samuelsson scored his second goal 8:52 into overtime to give Vancouver a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the first-round Western Conference series.
“If you’ve been around, you know what to expect. That’s what experience is,” said Samuelsson, who played 69 playoff games and won a Stanley Cup during four seasons in Detroit before signing for three-year, $7.5 million ideal with Vancouver.
“You stay calm because you know what to expect, and you are well prepared. … I just play my game and try to pick my spots.”
Both goalies made game-saving stops just before Samuelsson ended it. Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick(notes) got across quickly on Henrik Sedin(notes) on a 2-on-1 break 4 minutes into the extra period. Two minutes later, Luongo lunged back to swipe the puck off the goal line with his glove after Jack Johnson’s(notes) rebound attempt hit his blocker and trickled toward the goal.
“That was a great save,” Samuelsson said. “He never quit on the play and that obviously created other chances later and we put it away.”
Samuelsson won it 3 minutes later, taking Sedin’s pass from behind the net into the high slot and quickly firing a shot over Quick’s glove.
Luongo finished with 25 saves, none bigger than the desperate swipe in overtime, which came after only seeing two shots through the entire third period.
“Quick made a ton of big saves and I didn’t have many but that one was just as important,” Luongo said of a play that needed video review. “It was definitely going in, but once I swiped it off the line I knew it hadn’t crossed.”
Quick finished with 41 saves, and Jarret Stoll(notes) and Fredrik Modin(notes) scored power-play goals for the Kings, who came within an inch of winning their first playoff game since 2002. But Jack Johnson didn’t get all of a rebound attempt at a mostly empty net, and the puck hit Luongo’s arm.
“Once you get into overtime, it’s anyone’s game,” Johnson said. “It’s a game of inches. I wasn’t sure if it went in or not. I had my fingers crossed but that’s the playoffs, that’s overtime. You come that close to scoring and then they come down the other end and score on you.”
Los Angeles tied it with 7 minutes left in the second period after Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts(notes) was given a 5-minute boarding penalty and game misconduct for elbowing Brad Richardson’s(notes) head into the boards from behind.
Vancouver failed on a great chance to clear at the blue line, and the Kings worked down to Alexander Frolov(notes) below the goal line. His pass back up to Modin at the left faceoff circle was one-timed past Luongo’s glove on the far side.
Los Angeles had several key players making their postseason debuts, and the Canucks had only lost 11 home games all season (30-8-3). It showed at times as Vancouver outshot the Kings 17-6 in the opening period and 13-2 in the third.
But Quick, who came into his first playoff winless in eight starts, was great early. He got across his crease quickly with the left pad to take an empty net away from Alex Burrows(notes) on a backdoor pass 5 minutes in, and made a stellar glove save off Samuelsson alone in the slot on a late power-play rebound.
“You’ve got to feel good about your game to a point and carry it over to the next game,” Quick said. “But at the end of the day it’s not what we wanted.”
Stoll opened the scoring on a power play 54 seconds into the second period with a shot from the high slot with Alberts in the penalty box for interference.
The Kings’ seventh-ranked power play converted two of three chances against the Canucks’ 18th-ranked penalty kill, while Vancouver’s No. 6 power play was 1 for 4 against Los Angeles’ 20th-ranked penalty killing.
“Both teams got gritty, hard heavy players, good defensive players, good goaltending,” Stoll said. “Those chances are few and far between and when you get them, they’re usually with the man advantage.”
Samuelsson finally beat Quick on a power play to tie it just over 2 minutes later, and Daniel Sedin put the Canucks ahead midway through the second period after nice pass from twin brother Henrik sent him alone in tight.
“(Samuelsson) played a strong game, got some quality chances, scored a big goal,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “Hopefully that experience and that seizing the moment is going to rub off on some other guys on our team.”
NOTES: Alberts may face a suspension, which would leave the Canucks thin on defense. Aaron Rome(notes) hasn’t resumed practicing since sustaining an undisclosed injury a week earlier in San Jose, leaving only journeyman Nolan Baumgartner(notes). Kings C Anze Kopitar’s(notes) stick got stuck in Henrik Sedin’s face shield early in second period and required help at the bench to be removed, but no high-sticking penalty was called.