A three-game winning streak has kept the Los Angeles Kings in the midst of the hunt for their first playoff berth since 2002.
Jarret Stoll scored two power-play goals and Teddy Purcell added two assists, leading the surging Kings to a 3-2 victory over Vancouver on Monday night. They are just three points out of a playoff spot with 16 games remaining.
“At this point of the season, it doesn’t matter how we win games – as long as we’re winning them,” captain Dustin Brown said. “We’ve got to keep this momentum going and scrape and claw for everything we get. We’re on the outside looking in. And with the way the schedule is, teams are flip-flopping left and right, night after night.
“It’s about digging in and finding a way to win. And in these three home games, we found a way. We’ve had really good goaltending and good power plays. Now we need to take this momentum on the road, and we really can’t be worrying about what other teams are doing.”
Defenceman Denis Gauthier also scored and Jonathan Quick made 20 saves, helping end Vancouver’s four-game winning streak and handing the Canucks just their third loss in 15 games. Los Angeles has scored at least one power-play goal in 19 of its last 22 games, and two or more in seven of those contests.
“We did a good job of checking, and we were all over the puck,” Stoll said. “There weren’t too many odd-man rushes by them, and we locked it down pretty good defensively. We’ve just got to worry about our game and do the things we need to do to be successful and win games. And we did that tonight.”
Alex Burrows and Taylor Pyatt scored Vancouver’s goals. Roberto Luongo allowed more than two goals for the first time in his last eight starts, stopping 19 shots.
Luongo had won 12 of his previous 13 after losing his first five games following his return from a groin injury that sidelined him for 24 games. He came in 4-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average against the Kings in Los Angeles, including a 4-0 win in the previous meeting.
“They’re desperate, and we knew that coming in,” said Luongo, who was coming off a 3-1 home win against San Jose. “After the big game on Saturday, we got caught a little flat-footed.”
After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Canucks received a huge break that briefly got them back in the game. Daniel Sedin made a breakout pass to Burrows, who stickhandled through the neutral zone and took a slap slot from the blue-line. It went through the legs of defenceman Jack Johnson and dipped under Quick’s glove.
“I wasn’t surprised by the shot at all,” Quick said. “Granted, he was out pretty far, but it was a pretty good shot. It was through Jack’s legs and I just never picked it up. I mean, I’m not letting myself off the hook – I still should have had it. But the guys just kept playing and didn’t let it bother them.”
Stoll regained the Kings’ two-goal margin later in the second period with his second of the game and 18th this season. Luongo stopped a 25-foot wrist shot by Purcell, but Canucks defenceman Mattias Ohlund couldn’t find the bouncing puck at his feet. Stoll converted the rebound just 10 seconds after Mats Sundin was penalized for interference.
Stoll’s multi-goal game was the seventh of his career and his first since Oct. 25 at Nashville. He has four more goals than last season with Edmonton, and is four shy of his career high. The Kings acquired him and defenceman Matt Greene from the Oilers last June.
“Everyone knew what Jarret was about coming into the season, and he’s given us a big boost,” Brown said. “He’s an energy guy with a lot of skill and he has the ability to finish when we need him to. He’s found that little spot on the ice on the power play. I don’t know how many goals he has from that spot, but coming down the back side, he has quite a few goals.”
Pyatt sliced Vancouver’s deficit to 3-2 with 14:34 left in the game, scoring his eighth from short range after some sloppy play by the Kings in front of their net.
Los Angeles scored on its first shot on goal as Gauthier earned his second goal of the season and first in 33 career games against Vancouver. Anze Kopitar won a faceoff deep in the zone and Gauthier played the puck off the right boards before sending a 40-foot wrist shot past Luongo’s glove.
The Kings made it 2-0 while Willie Mitchell was off for hooking. Purcell, who drew the penalty, got the puck from Alexander Frolov along the goal line to the left of the net and set up Stoll’s short one-timer with a thread-the-needle pass through the crease.
Notes: Burrows has 19 goals, just three fewer than he had in 206 games over his three previous NHL seasons. … When the Canucks signed nine-time all-star free agent Sundin on Dec. 18, they were tied for the Northwest Division lead with Calgary. They now trail the Flames by eight points. But they are fifth in the Western Conference. … Thirteen of the Canucks players had their mothers accompany the team on its chartered flight for the two-game trip to Southern California.