LOS ANGELES – Although Dustin Brown pretty much whiffed on the cross-ice pass from Ryan Smyth, his tepid shot somehow got under the pads of star Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, leaving the Los Angeles captain with a goal and a sheepish grin.
It was that kind of night for both Brown and Luongo when Los Angeles seized control of its playoff destiny and left the Canucks wondering about their own post-season fitness.
Brown had three goals and an assist, and the Kings roared to an early five-goal lead while inching closer to their first playoff berth since 2002 with an 8-3 victory over Vancouver on Thursday night.
Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov and Jarret Stoll each had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who have won two straight after a four-game skid endangered their playoff position. With seven goals on their first 23 shots against the befuddled Canadian Olympic star in the other net, the Kings burst from an offensive slump with their highest-scoring performance since Jan. 1, 2008.
“It was a huge statement game for us,” said Brown, whose four points were a career high. “They’re a possible playoff opponent for us, and at this point of the year, it’s great. They’ve had our number all year, (but) we kept the game out of reach for them from the first period on.”
Brown completed his second career hat trick 3 1/2 minutes into the third period, sending a shower of caps onto the Staples Center ice.
Seven players had multipoint games for Los Angeles, which is in seventh place in the Western Conference with 94 points – seven ahead of ninth-place Calgary with five games to play. Although a playoff spot is nearly certain at this point, nobody around the Kings takes anything for granted after seven straight seasons with early summers.
“We’re starting to talk about it,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “It’s not there ’til it’s there, but it’s getting closer. I’m important that we keep the focus out there, but it’s starting to come around again. Everybody is hungry for the playoffs.”
Justin Williams and Michal Handzus also scored, and Smyth led three players with two assists apiece as the Kings snapped a five-game losing streak against the Northwest Division-leading Canucks. Vancouver could have clinched a playoff berth with one point, but instead finished a disheartening game with both of its top-line wings sidelined by injuries.
Vancouver allowed eight goals for the first time all season when Handzus scored on an empty net after Luongo’s misplay behind the cage in the final minutes. Luongo stopped just 21 shots while enduring sarcastic jeers on every third-period save for the Canucks, who have 96 points and have lost four of their last six.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault apparently decided to keep backup Andrew Raycroft rested for Friday’s game at Anaheim when this loss got out of control.
“It was (Luongo’s) game, and that’s what it was,” Vigneault said. “I’ve got a plan, and I’m going to stick to the plan. … You’ve got to be mentally tough, because you’re going to have nights like that.”
Kyle Wellwood scored two goals as the Canucks played without second-leading scorer Daniel Sedin, whose back spasms sidelined him for the first time since late November.
Vancouver then lost Alex Burrows when Stoll hit him in the neck with a slap shot during a power play late in the first period. Burrows dropped to the ice while kicking his legs in pain, but got up and skated swiftly to the dressing room.
“It’s inflamed a little bit right now, tough time swallowing,” Burrows said. “But I’ll see how it goes, and it should be fine tomorrow. I had a tough time breathing right off the bat. I couldn’t really swallow, so instead of staying on the ice, I got off the ice to see the trainers and get medical treatment right away.”
Vancouver’s Tanner Glass blindsided Kings forward Jeff Halpern on a check in the corner during the first period, earning a charging penalty and immediately getting in a fight with Matt Greene. Halpern missed the rest of the game with an upper-body injury, and Glass could face supplemental NHL discipline if replays show he made contact with Halpern’s head.
“The explanation I got from the refs is that I’ve got to let up,” Glass said. “He’s vulnerable, I guess. Not that it was a dirty hit, but he was in a vulnerable position, so I need to let up. I didn’t agree with it, but that’s the way it goes.”
Jonathan Bernier made 27 saves for Los Angeles in his second straight start after shutting out Nashville on Tuesday. Murray stuck with Bernier to give a rest to Jonathan Quick, who already set a franchise record with 39 wins while starting 68 of their first 75 games.
“There’s no controversy,” Murray said. “Jonathan Quick will play Saturday. He’s a big reason the Kings are where they are. Quicker is our guy … (but Bernier) is taking advantage of some opportunities to play and show he’s a blue-chipper.”
NOTES: NHL scoring leader Henrik Sedin had an assist for his 105th point, keeping him three points ahead of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. … Kopitar set a career high with 78 points. … Los Angeles had scored more than two goals just twice in the last 11 games.