LOS ANGELES – Penalty trouble in the third period for the Kings Saturday afternoon led to their demise in a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at STAPLES Center.
In what was a huge divisional battle, the Kings couldn’t gain any ground in what has become an insanely tight race to fill the Western Conference’s final playoff spots. The Kings came out of the gate buzzing, but their inability to build a solid lead early allowed the Canucks to take advantage of a penalty-plagued third period.
“It was a hard game. I think both teams understood how big of a game it was,” Dustin Brown said following the loss. “A 5-on-3 penalty kill is not an easy thing to do, especially against the unit that they have, and they got a big goal. That ends up being the difference. Now it’s about getting ready to go on the road.”
After a scoreless first period, which saw the Kings create many scoring opportunities on Eddie Lack, Marian Gaborik finally beat the Canucks’ goaltender in the opening seconds of the middle frame.
Granted their first power play of the afternoon just 17 seconds into the second period, the Kings went to work right away. Anze Kopitar won a faceoff in Vancouver’s zone and touched the puck back to Drew Doughty. Doughty fed Marian Gaborik, who was situated atop the left circle, who then walked in and fired a wrist shot high past Lack’s glove side.
Nick Bonino tied the game for the Canucks with just over five minutes to play in the second, chipping home a cross-ice pass past Jonathan Quick, out-maneuvering Drew Doughty for position in front of Quick’s crease.
Entering the third period tied 1-1, the Kings ran into penalty trouble. Drew Doughty was called for slashing three minutes into the final frame, and Tyler Toffoli was handed a five-minute major and a game misconduct just over a minute later.
Radim Vrbata gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead with 15:29 to play in regulation, executing on the Canucks’ 5-on-3 man advantage.
Still facing a one-goal deficit as the clock wound down, the Kings pulled Jonathan Quick en lieu of an extra attacker. The Kings failed to produce the game-tying goal; the Canucks tacked on two empty-net markers to take a 4-1 lead, the afternoon’s eventual final score.
“You’ve got to be able to produce,” Darryl Sutter said following the game. “At the end of the day, there are guys that have played twenty-some games, and we’re into the stretch part, and they have one or no goals. We’re having trouble scoring. The guys have got to produce. That’s just being honest.”
Anze Kopitar earned his 600th-career NHL point with his assist on Marian Gaborik's goal.
The Kings, with 82 points, now sit two points behind the Calgary Flames for the Pacific Division’s final playoff spot, and two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second and final wild-card berth.
Marian Gaborik (1G), Anze Kopitar (1A) and Drew Doughty (1A) led all Kings players in points scored (1), Andrej Sekera in shots taken (4), Trevor Lewis in hits delivered (6), Brayden McNabb and Drew Doughty in shots blocked (4), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (24:54). Jonathan Quick made 38 saves in the loss.
With the loss, the Kings’ record falls to 34-23-14, their mark on home ice at STAPLES Center drops to 22-9-7. The Kings will now venture out for a five-game road trip, beginning Monday evening in Newark, NJ. The Kings will take on the New Jersey Devils, with the puck slated to drop at 4:00PM PT at the Prudential Center.