LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Although the Vancouver Canucks still lead the overall NHL standings, they’ve been a .500 team for a full month.
Daniel Sedin thinks that might be changing after a fairly tough win that left the Los Angeles Kings crying foul.
Sedin scored the tiebreaking goal with 8:24 to play, Roberto Luongo made 21 saves in his 300th career victory, and the Canucks opened a five-game road trip with a 3-1 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday.
Jannik Hansen scored in the first period and Alexandre Burrows added an empty-net goal for the Canucks, who have stayed on top of the league despite alternating wins and losses for a full month. Vancouver hasn’t played terribly, but also hasn’t always showed the 60-minute dedication Sedin saw Saturday.
“We knew they were going to come out physical, and I think that got us going,” said Sedin, the NHL scoring leader. “This is going to be huge for us going forward after getting a test like this.”
Sedin broke open a tight defensive game with his 33rd goal on a rebound of Christian Ehrhoff’s shot. Drew Doughty and the Kings’ bench were irate, claiming Sedin cross-checked Doughty into Quick right before the goal.
“That’s a … shame that that goal is allowed,” Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said before storming out of his postgame interview session. “The guy’s in the crease, Quick can’t move his stick, and Doughty is pushed off over the top of our goaltender. It should not be allowed. That’s a penalty.”
Doughty, a Norris Trophy finalist last season, kept complaining throughout the final minutes, earning a misconduct penalty after Burrows scored his 18th goal.
“I made contact. There’s going to be contact,” Daniel Sedin said with a shrug. “I don’t know, I was just battling in front. I couldn’t really say.”
Jonathan Quick stopped 33 shots, and Dustin Penner scored his first goal for the Kings, who lost in regulation for just the third time in 18 games.
Vancouver, which plays at Anaheim on Sunday night, hasn’t won consecutive games since early February, but also hasn’t lost back-to-back games since late January.
“It’s tough to go full-throttle for 82 games,” said Luongo, the 25th goalie—and sixth-youngest overall—to win 300 NHL games. “Obviously we feel that we’re not playing our best hockey right now, but we’re still a .500 team, and that says a bit about our group in the locker room. We just need to get ourselves in gear and realize that obviously there are going to be games like tonight, a lot down the stretch here, and we just have to find ways to win.”
The clubs met for the first time in nearly five months since the Kings beat the Canucks twice in the first week of the regular season. Vancouver knocked Los Angeles out of the first round of the playoffs last spring, ending the Kings’ first post-season appearance in eight years.
Los Angeles held the Canucks’ vaunted power play scoreless on six chances, but Luongo and Vancouver’s defence stifled the Kings after an early goal from Penner, who got his 22nd of the season in his second game since arriving in a trade with Edmonton.
“You always want to measure yourself against the best, and right now they’re No. 1 in the league,” Penner said. “Our (penalty-killing) was great, so it’s a great thing for us to shut down one of the best power plays in the league. … I love the team. I think we have every component needed to go far in the playoffs.”
Penner scored early in the first period with a move that showed why the Kings were eager to add his size to an already large lineup that excels in puck possession. Penner got the puck in the corner and muscled to the net with a defender hanging on his arm before flicking a shot that deflected off Maxim Lapierre and caught Luongo leaning the wrong way.
Vancouver tied it on the forechecking of Hansen, who ambushed Kings defenceman Rob Scuderi and forced a turnover behind the net before taking a pass in front for a backhand past Quick.
Notes: Kings D Willie Mitchell played against his former Vancouver teammates wearing a visor. The veteran needed 54 stitches Thursday to close a gash on his face opened by a shot by Phoenix’s Kyle Turris. … Vancouver LW Tanner Glass barely escaped serious injury in the second period when Scuderi’s slap shot hit him inches below the neck. Glass dropped to the ice in pain, but kept playing. … Henrik Sedin earned his 60th assist of the season on his twin brother’s goal. … Burrows’ goal was his first in 10 games. … Kings LW Alexei Ponikarovsky drove Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis headfirst into the boards with an elbow late in the second period, but got only a minor boarding penalty. Hamhuis, who was skating in a crouch when Ponikarovsky hit him, was fine. … Quick returned to the net despite giving up six goals and getting pulled from his last start against Detroit. Murray went back to his historically resilient starter over backup Jonathan Bernier, who shut out Phoenix on Thursday.