VANCOUVER – They had just written a little history, but there wasn’t a lot of celebrating in the Vancouver Canucks dressing room Thursday night.
There were no high-fives or back slapping. Instead of excited shouts there was a quiet determination about the job ahead after the Canucks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 to win the NHL Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in the franchise’s 40-year history.
“We didn’t start the season to win the Presidents’ Trophy,” said Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo. “When we started the season we played to win the Stanley Cup, not the Presidents’ Trophy.”
The win improved Vancouver’s record to 52-17-9 for 113 points. Before leaving the ice, the Canuck players saluted the sellout crowd of 18,860, who gave them a standing ovation.
Canuck captain Henrik Sedin shrugged when asked what it means to finish the regular season first overall.
“Not much,” he said. “After the season I don’t think it matters a lot.
“It’s all about what we do in the playoffs. We know that.”
Daniel Sedin, the NHL’s leading scorer, tied the game in the second period, then assisted on Ryan Kesler’s power-play goal in the third. That gives him 100 points for the first time in his career.
“Not a lot of Swedes have done that,” Daniel Sedin, who has 41 goals and 59 assists. “It’s a milestone. But we have a long road ahead.”
Defenceman Christian Ehrhoff scored with less than one second left in the second period to break a 1-1. Kesler’s goal came with the Canucks enjoying a two-man advantage.
The Canucks will finish the regular season with the best record in the league and enjoy home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Canucks knew the Presidents Trophy was within their grasp when the Philadelphia Flyers lost 1-0 to the Atlanta Thrashers earlier Thursday night.
The Flyers have 102 points with five games remaining. Vancouver has four games left.
The Canucks had already wrapped up first place in the Western Conference. This season Vancouver has established team records for points, wins and road wins (26).
It really wasn’t a matter of if the Canucks would win the Presidents’ Trophy, but when. Since January Vancouver has been on top of the standings, beating back challenges from Philadelphia and Detroit.
“We haven’t really talked a lot about it,” said Henrik Sedin.
“It’s not been our focus at all throughout the season. We’re here now and it feels good for sure. At the same time, I think we are looking forward to an exciting spring.”
Henrik Sedin won last year’s scoring race with 112 points. He sits third this year with 91 points from 19 goals and 72 assists.
The last Canadian team to win the Presidents’ Trophy was the Ottawa Senators with 113 points in the 2002-03 season.
Kyle Clifford scored for the Kings (44-27-6), who saw a four-game win streak snapped and remained one point back of fourth-place Phoenix in the West.
The Kings and Nashville are tied for fifth, one point ahead of Anaheim.
In the third period, Clifford was given a five-minute major for checking-from-behind and a game misconduct after driving Canuck defenceman Chris Tanev head-first into the boards.
After spending several minutes laying on the ice, Tanev was helped to the dressing room by a trainer.
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said Tanev would be evaluated Friday.
The Kings led 1-0 after the first period, but the Canucks began to take over the game in the second. Vancouver outshot the Kings 16-0 in the third period.
“We’re not happy about that,” said Kings defenceman Drew Doughty.
“They kind of took it to us right off the bat in the third period. We need to be getting plenty of shots every period and the fact we didn’t, that’s why we didn’t come back and tie it up.”
Forward Dustin Brown said the Kings quit attacking after getting the lead.
“That team, they’re the best in the league right now,” said Brown. “We can’t sit back, try to protect a lead with that team.
“In the third period, we really didn’t attack them like we should have. Good teams are going to come at you.”
Kesler, who scored his 37th of the season, said how Vancouver won was as important as the win itself.
“We were down early but we continued,” he said. “Those are the types of games we need to win coming up pretty soon here.”
Kesler looked to have scored on the power play late in the first period, but the horn sounded to end the period just as the puck crossed the line.
]he Canucks have won five games in a row and have suffered just one loss in their last 13 matches.
Vigneault said the Canucks have managed to win, despite not always playing their best and losing some key players to injury.
“I like the 52 wins,” said Vigneault.
“That’s what we’re in this game for . . . consistency. The guys have shown (that) day in and day out, even though we’ve had a fair share of bodies going down. We’re still able to put a good game on the ice.”
The Kings played without leading scorer Anze Kopitar, out for the season with an ankle injury, and Justin Williams (shoulder).
An injury to forward Mikael Samuelsson resulted in Jeff Tambellini starting the game on the second line for Vancouver. Mason Raymond centred the third line, replacing Manny Malhotra who is out for the season with an eye injury.
Notes: This is the seventh time in franchise history the Canucks have registered 100 or more points in a season. …Injured defenceman Alex Edler (back surgery) and Andrew Alberts (broken wrist) are expected to begin practising with the team soon. …Defenceman Dan Hamhuis missed his second game due to a concussion. …The Canucks play the Edmonton Oilers in Vancouver Saturday night.