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Kings inch back into wild-card; 4-0 winners in Vancouver

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

The Kings inched back into a Western Conference playoff spot with their 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night at Rogers Arena.

In three meetings with Vancouver this season, the Kings have come away victorious in each matchup – outscoring the Canucks by a combined score of 12-3. The big story Tuesday night was Jonathan Quick, who turned away all 19 shots he faced to record his fifth shutout of the season, and the 36th of his NHL career.

“I just think it was who we played, they’re ahead of us in the standings and we’re trying to catch them,” Quick said following the win. “Coming out and playing them in their barn, and getting two points, it means a lot.”

Although the Kings were slow to get their shot-count churning in the first period, they were first to strike – Tyler Toffoli burying his 20th goal of the season with just over three minutes to play in the first.

Toffoli’s marker came during the Kings’ second power play of the evening. Justin Williams found Toffoli undetected on Vancouver’s back-door, fed him a cross-ice pass, which Toffoli chipped home high to the top-left corner and past Eddie Lack.

It was Williams who set up the Kings’ first goal, and it was Williams who gave the Kings a 2-0 lead four minutes into the second period. Williams’ tally came in similar fashion to Toffoli’s; Williams slammed home a back-door pass from Brayden McNabb.

Entering the third period with a two-goal lead, Anze Kopitar was quick to add some insurance, scoring his 14th goal of the season to give the Kings a 3-0 lead 25 seconds into the final frame.

Kopitar, holding Vancouver’s zone, disrupted a Dan Hamhuis clearing attempt, and walked in and fired a shot from the top of the left circle, beating Eddie Lack to the short side.

"Well, you know, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t sit back in the third period,” Kopitar said following the game. “Obviously getting that goal right off the bat certainly didn’t hurt, but I thought we kept pressing, we kept making plays, and didn’t sit back.”

Vancouver was aggressive in pulling Eddie Lack from the game for an extra-attacker; Willie Desjardins doing so with five minutes to play in regulation. Marian Gaborik took advantage of the situation, potting an empty-net goal with 4:24 to play – all but guaranteeing the Kings’ win.

“I think we just played a solid 60-minute game,” Kopitar noted. “I think all four lines had an impact on the game, and obviously special teams are huge this time of the year, and we did a pretty good job of that.”

The Kings’ special teams did in fact come to play Thursday night, as they executed on one of their three power plays, and successfully killed off both of Vancouver’s. The Kings have now killed off 37 of their opponent’s last 38 power plays.

The Kings have inched back into a playoff spot with the win, taking over the Western Conference’s second and final wild-card berth, surpassing the Winnipeg Jets. The Kings, now with 79 points, are only two behind the Minnesota Wild for the first wild-card spot.

As for the Pacific Division, the Kings are tied at 79 points with Calgary for the Pacific Division’s third and final playoff seed, but the Flames own the tiebreaker. The Kings are one point behind the Vancouver Canucks, who own second place in the Pacific.

Anze Kopitar (1G, 1A) and Justin Williams (1G, 1A) led all Kings players in points scored (2), four players led the club in shots taken (3), Dustin Brown in hits delivered (5), Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr in shots blocked (4), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (28:35). Jonathan Quick stopped all 19 shots he faced in the win.

With the win, the Kings’ record improves to 33-21-13; their mark away from STAPLES Center jumps to 12-14-6. The Kings will now return to Los Angeles, where they will start a two-game home stand Saturday night against the Nashville Predators at STAPLES Center; the puck is slated to drop just after 7:00PM PT.

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