VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- It has been a long time since the Vancouver Canucks found themselves trailing after the opening game of an NHL playoff series.
The good news for last year's Stanley Cup finalists is that considering how badly they played in Wednesday night's 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks still had a chance to win late in the game.
For their part, the Kings are bracing for a Canuck surge in Friday's second match of the Western Conference quarterfinal series. There probably won't be much alteration to the Los Angeles game plan, just more of it.
The Kings will continue to put the puck deep in the Canucks' zone, then use their size to pound the Vancouver defense and their speed to pounce on loose pucks. They will rely on goaltender Jonathan Quick to make big saves.
What Los Angeles must do more of is get traffic in front of Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo, who kept Vancouver in the opening game by making 35 saves.
"We were pretty good on a lot of their top players making it hard for them,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said Thursday. "He made some big saves but he also saw a lot of pucks.
"If there is one guy we need to make it harder on, it's him. It doesn't matter how good a goaltender you've got. If he can't see the puck, he's not going to stop it. That's something we need to be better at.''
It's obvious what Vancouver must do to tie the best-of-seven series:
The Canucks must be more disciplined and not take penalties, even if a couple of the Game 1 calls were borderline. They must improve a power play that went 0-5. They can't commit turnovers like the one defenseman Alexander Edler made that resulted in Dustin Penner's winning goal. And they must tighten up defensively to stop Brown and Justin Williams from combining for 15 shots on net.
What's most surprising about Vancouver's opening-night loss is how a team that spent 10 months focused on returning to the finals could stumble so badly on the first step on that journey.
"Obviously, we were expecting a better performance from our group,'' coach Alain Vigneault said. "It didn't happen. There is nothing we can do about it.
"We're working on a lot things right now.''
Vigneault smiled when asked what he thought about Kesler matching up with Richards.
"I'm not sure I like that matchup,'' he said. "I'm going to think about that again.
"We need to have an answer for the [Anze] Kopitar line. We need to have an answer for Penner, who was a powerful force. We need to have an answer for Richards, who played one of his best games I've seen him play since he was in L.A.''
The Canuck power play was sputtering even before left winger Daniel Sedin missed the final nine games of the season with a concussion. Since a Jan. 7 win over Boston, the Canucks have managed 16 goals on 120 power-play chances.
During Wednesday's game, Vigneault replaced Edler on the power play with Dan Hamhuis.
"Our power play needs to be better,'' said Vigneault. "We have the personnel for it to be good right now. We need to execute better.''
Sedin missed Game 1 and didn't practice Thursday. He's expected to miss Friday's game. The Canucks will also be without forward Bryon Bitz, who was suspended for two games for a hit on Kyle Clifford that resulted in a boarding major and game misconduct.
Clifford was injured on the play and won't dress Friday.
The last time Vancouver lost the opening game of a series was in 2007, when they were beaten 5-1 by the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference semifinals. They would go on to lose that series in five games. Vancouver hadn't lost the first game of the playoffs since a 6-0 whipping by the St. Louis Blues in the 2003 conference quarterfinals. After falling behind 3-1, Vancouver rallied to win the series in seven games.
The Kings last led a playoff series in 2010, when they had a 2-1 edge on Vancouver in the opening round. The Canucks won the next three games.
Neither coach wanted to get involved in a controversy surrounding a tweet that made fun of the Canucks that appeared on the Kings' official Twitter feed.
"To everyone in Canada outside of B.C. -- you're welcome," said the tweet, a reference to the Canucks' not being popular outside of their home province of British Columbia.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he respects what Vancouver has done the past two seasons.
"I don't think that would come from our locker room or from our coaches,'' he said.
Vigneault has bigger problems to think about.
"I don't care about the Twitter world,'' he shrugged. "I care about the Stanley Cup playoffs.''
The Kings apologized for the tweet.