VANCOUVER – It’s a good thing Jason LaBarbera has a short memory.
The Los Angeles Kings’ netminder was torched for five goals Friday night in a 6-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.
But that was history Saturday when he came up with a solid 43-save effort as the lowly Kings defeated Vancouver 4-3 for their third win over the Canucks this season.
“I really didn’t think I played that bad last night in Calgary,” said the lanky, bearded LaBarbera, a native of suburban Burnaby. “Things just didn’t go our way.
“As a team we knew we had to refocus and regroup. I just felt if we gave the team a chance to win we’d come up with a victory.”
LaBarbera gave them that chance with key early saves off Alex Burrows and Henrik Sedin and the Kings parlayed a 3-0 lead into the victory that still left them with the worst record in the NHL.
The win was the second over Vancouver this season for the six-foot-three, 230-pound LaBarbera, who was the AHL’s top goalie last season playing for the Manchester Monarchs.
Alex Frolov scored what proved to be the winner and gave Los Angeles a 4-2 lead when he took Michal Handzus’s backhand pass and fired the puck into the net off Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.
But by the time Jack Johnson, Scott Thornton and Dustin Brown gave the Kings a 3-0 advantage, Vancouver was outshooting them 23-8 and LaBarbera was hard at work.
It was only Johnson’s second career goal. His first came 39 games ago, also against the Canucks.
LaBarbera, who had to cough up the cash for 11 tickets for family and friends, was the difference, denying Ryan Kesler’s backhand in the final seconds with Luongo lifted for an extra attacker.
“For me, it’s my first real opportunity to be the No. 1 guy and you need to take advantage of it as much as possible,” LaBarbera, 27, said of the challenge.
“I know they’re going to stick with me for the rest of the year and if I give them games like this, hopefully we can keep winning.”
Coach Marc Crawford said LaBarbera thrives on a heavy workload.
“He’s our top guy for sure … and he’s going to continue to get better as he gets a little more professional,” the former Canucks coach said.
“We’re a developing team and it’s nice that we have a goalie that’s developing as well.”
Brad Isbister, Trevor Linden and Mason Raymond scored for the Canucks who squandered a chance to take over first place in the competitive Northwest Division.
While the Kings improved to 19-28-2, they are still last in the NHL with 40 points.
Vancouver lost for the fifth time in six games and for the second straight time at home to slip to 25-18-5.
“When you’re playing against a good team, you have to capitalize on your chances and we did that,” said Brown who got his 24th goal of the season in a game when his club was outshot 46-25.
“Every Grade A chance we had we scored on so it was a good night offensively.”
Luongo said he was disappointed losing three out of three to a last-place club.
“There is no real excuse to make,” he said. “We’ve lost five of six so I don’t think our confidence is so high right now.”
Markus Naslund said the Canucks had plenty of early chances but didn’t capitalize like the Kings.
“We got over 40 pucks on net,” he said. “Their goalie played well but we can only blame ourselves for not taking control early.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said his club simply ran into a hot goalie.
“We’re not playing bad hockey. As far as scoring chances go, we’re right there.”
Pre-game ceremonies saw Naslund presented with several gifts to mark his 1,000th career game Thursday in Detroit.
They included a silver-plated stick and the sweater he wore while scoring his 362nd career goal that tied that game.
Notes: Naslund was the 216th player and seventh Swede to reach the 1,000-game milestone. … Vancouver got one defenceman back from the injured list but lost another. … Mattias Ohlund returned after missing 11 games with a concussion but Willie Mitchell was out with back spasms. … Kings Kevin Dallman (broken foot) and Michael Cammalleri (rib) both missed their 12th consecutive games.