It was an intense Game 1 of the 2012 NHL playoffs Wednesday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. But the Kings prevailed 4-2 in a thriller over the No. 1-seeded Canucks.
Of the many storylines over the course of the season for the Kings, none was bigger than the acquisition, and then subsequent below-average production of center Mike Richards.
But Richards, after having his worst season (44 points in 74 games) since the '06-07 season, sent a shot across the bow of the hockey world. Mike Richards is here, and he is the same Mike Richards that was once considered one of the best two-way centers in the league.
Richards opened up the Kings-Canucks series with a three-point, plus-two performance, and at least one bone-crushing hit on Canucks forward Alex Burrows.
He opened up the Kings series scoring by netting the tying goal on a 5-on-3 power play, and the veteran savvy was apparent. Richards caught Roberto Luongo playing pass and slid a nifty fake pass-shot from the wide side in five-hole on Luongo.
Take a look here for his first goal of the postseason.
Richards followed up later in the game by creating a turnover at the Canucks blue line with 3:30 left in the third period, which led to Dustin Penner tucking away the game-winner.
Watch Richards create the turnover that led to the game-winner here.
He would add another assist on Dustin Brown's empty-netter to cap off the night.
Also adding to the night was Richards' massive hit on Alex Burrows in the final minute of play.
Check the hit out right here >>>>>
It's safe to say that Mike Richards has a lot of fans in L.A. on the fence. His performance this year wasn't particularly lackluster, but it was not what Kings fans were expecting from such a highly-touted player with the Flyers.
But Game 1 should satisfy the desires of many critics—Richards definitely showed why he has been noted for his big-game play.
The Kings have lacked that player the last two playoff appearances, but Richards is a heart and soul kind of guy. Hopefully he can keep up the huge hits, the production, and the clutch play.
This kind of thing is contagious, as one player making a difference spurs on another. If the Kings can get rolling behind Mike Richards, the No. 8 seeds out West just may be much scarier then originally thought.