The Vancouver Canucks didn’t waste a lot of energy celebrating the first Presidents’ Trophy in the franchise’s 40-year history.
They were more focused on a chance to add a lot more important trophy in the playoffs.
Defenceman Christian Ehrhoff scored the go-ahead goal with 0.9 seconds left in the second period and the Canucks clinched the NHL’s best regular-season record with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
“It’s nice but we want another first to come in a few months,” goalie Roberto Luongo said. “That’s the big one we’re all keeping our eyes on obviously and, when it’s all said and done, I think we’ll be able to enjoy this a little more.”
Daniel Sedin tied it with five minutes left in the second period, then added his NHL-leading 100th point of the season by setting up Ryan Kesler’s goal on a two-man advantage with 4:26 left in the third. Luongo finished with 18 saves as the Canucks outshot the Kings 16-0 in the third to win their fifth straight game and 12th in the last 13.
Vancouver, which wrapped up the Western Conference title its previous game, celebrated its 40th season by adding to a franchise record with 113 points (52-17-9), 11 more than second-place Philadelphia atop the NHL standings. Coach Alain Vigneault said players were aware they had a chance to clinch after Philadelphia, which only has five games left, lost 1-0 to Atlanta before the game started.
Elsewhere in the NHL, it was: Toronto 4 Boston 3 (SO); Minnesota 4 Edmonton 2; Ottawa 4 Florida 1; Washington 4 Columbus 3 (OT); San Jose 6 Dallas 0; Atlanta 1 Philadelphia 0; Tampa Bay 2 Pittsburgh 1; New York Islanders 6 New York Rangers 2; and Nashville 3 Colorado 2.
At Vancouver, other than saluting their cheering fans at centre ice, there was little trace of celebrations inside the locker-room after beating the Kings.
“Nope, nothing,” Daniel Sedin said when asked if the Presidents’ Trophy meant anything. “It means we have home-ice advantage, but other than that no.”
Twin brother Henrik Sedin, the Canucks’ captain, disagreed only slightly.
“It means we have a great team,” Henrik said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to win it all, but it means we have a great shot and it’s up to us in there.”
Kyle Clifford scored for the Kings but was tossed out of the game and given a major penalty for checking from behind after hitting Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev face-first into the end boards. Matt Greene took a penalty for cross-checking Kesler, who rounded out the scoring on the 5-on-3. Kesler seemed more impressed by how they won a playoff-type game than what it meant.
“It’s an accomplishment. You work hard to be the best,” Kesler said. “We have the best record and it’s going to stay that way, so definitely we can give ourselves a pat on the back, but we’ve got to keep working. Those are the types of games we need to win coming up soon here.”
Jonathan Quick made 32 saves for Los Angeles, which had a four-game win streak snapped and failed on a chance to move past Phoenix and into fourth place.
The Kings were playing their second game since losing top scorer Anze Kopitar to torn ankle ligaments, and fourth since No. 2 scorer Justin Williams went out with a dislocated shoulder. They outshot the Canucks 11-7 in the first period, but failed to record a single shot in the third.
“They kind of took it to us right off the bat in the third period,” defenceman Drew Doughty said.
Doughty set up Clifford’s goal with a nice cross-ice pass, but was on for the odd-man rushes that led to the next two by Vancouver. Doughty delivered a big check seconds after Sedin scored the first goal, and hustling back only to screen Quick as he hustled to get back on Ehrhoff’s buzzer beater.
“They’re the best in the league right now,” Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown said. “We can’t sit back, try to protect a lead with that team.”
An already physical game featuring plenty of post-whistle pushing and shoving got ugly late. Some Canucks took exception to Doughty’s hit on Sedin, which coach Alain Vigneault said was “blindside but wasn’t to the head.”
First Kings forward Michal Handzus crashed hard into the boards after an awkward collision with defenceman Aaron Rome and Jeff Tambellini. Then two minutes later, Clifford hit Tanev, sending both players out of the game. Vigneault said Tanev had an “upper-body injury and would be re-evaluated Friday.”
Kings coach Terry Murray said Clifford should have “let up” but was also critical of the hit that left Handzus crumpled on the ice.
“Tambellini cuts underneath and Rome comes and blindsides him,” Murray said.
At Boston, Nazem Kadri scored the only shootout goal to help Toronto beat the Bruins. Toronto is 10th in the Eastern Conference, five points behind seventh-place Buffalo and the New York Rangers for one of the eight playoff spots.
At St, Paul, Minn., Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom ended a six-start winless streak, beating his favourite opponent in the Wild’s victory over Edmonton. Backstrom has never lost to the Oilers, improving to 14-0 in his career against them.
At Sunrise, Fla., rookie Colin Greening scored twice in the second period for Ottawa, and Craig Anderson made 37 saves to improve to 9-4-1 since being acquired in a trade with Colorado in February.
At Washington, Jason Chimera tipped in a rebound 2:30 into overtime as the Capitals edged Columbus.
At San Jose, Calif., Antti Niemi made 29 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and Patrick Marleau scored twice to help the Sharks clinch a playoff spot.
At Philadelphia, Nik Antropov scored the only goal, and Chris Mason stopped 43 shots for his first shutout of the season and 21st overall in Atlanta’s victory over the Flyers.
At Tampa, Fla., Martin St. Louis scored his 30th goal of the season, helping Tampa Bay clinch its first playoff berth since 2007 with a victory over Pittsburgh.
At Uniondale, N.Y., Radek Martinek and P.A. Parenteau both had a goal and assist during the Islanders’ four-goal second period, and the Islanders put the rival Rangers back into post-season peril.
At Denver, Pekka Rinne made 27 saves and Nashville beat Colorado for its ninth victory in 11 games.