LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Kings insist the Vancouver Canucks' last-minute goalie switch had nothing to do with their scoring outburst.
Anze Kopitar scored the go-ahead goal and Jean-Sebastien Aubin made 26 saves, leading the Kings to a 4-2 victory over the Northwest Division-leaders on Monday night. Curtis Sanford was forced into action after Roberto Luongo ruled himself out during warmups because of a painful bruised rib.
"Every team has a good first and second goalie, but I don't think it would have mattered who was in goal tonight," said Derek Armstrong, who scored for the Kings. "Sanford didn't have much of a chance on any of our goals. We just had a solid team effort. They're a good hockey team, and we battled them all night."
Brad Stuart scored for Los Angeles and Dustin Brown connected during a two-man power play in the third period to put the game out of reach.
Luongo has been nursing a bruised rib all week after being injured Dec. 2 at Minnesota.
He finished that game, then took another hard shot in the same area last Wednesday at Chicago. The pain flared up during Saturday's shootout loss at Pittsburgh - a game in which Luongo stopped Sidney Crosby's penalty shot in overtime.
Luongo led the team out onto the ice at Staples Center for the pre-game warmup, which indicated he would start. But he shut it down about four minutes before the Canucks returned to the dressing room.
"It just got worse over the last two days, and I've been in pain all day," Luongo said. "I was trying to see how I felt in warmups, but it wasn't good enough for me to go. It's not broken, but it hurts when I breathe and it hurts when I move. It's tough to do your job under those circumstances. It's day-to-day right now. Hopefully it's just a few days. It's almost got to heal on its own."
Sanford, who won all three of his previous starts for the Canucks, stopped 27 shots. .
"Louie kind of gave me the nod about midway through the warmup, and that's when I knew for sure that I was going to go in there," said Sanford, who signed with the Canucks as a free agent in July. "I knew when I signed with Vancouver that the work load was not going to be as much as it was in the past couple of years in St. Louis. But I just keep working hard in practice so that I'd be prepared for situations like this."
Taylor Pyatt and Alexander Edler scored power play goals for the Canucks in the opener of a five-game road trip. The loss was only their third in regulation during a span of 17 games (11-3-3).
Kopitar gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead at 9:19 of the first period. He cruised down the slot, took a pass from Brown and beat Sanford high to the glove side with a short backhander for his 14th goal and ninth in 15 games.
Armstrong made it 3-1 at 4:49 of the second period with his second goal in three games, following a 28-game drought extending back to his final game of last season. Jack Johnson's wrist shot from the left point glanced off the blade of teammate Rob Blake's stick near the crease, and Armstrong flipped the puck over the glove of a sprawling Sanford.
Brown added his 14th goal with 8:19 to play, redirecting Armstrong's cross-ice pass from the left circle for a 4-1 lead after staggered penalties against Alex Burrows for elbowing and Matt Cooke for slashing. Edler ended the scoring with 2 1/2 minutes to go while Blake was serving a cross-checking penalty.
Stuart opened the scoring at 3:22 of the first period with his first goal in 23 career games against Vancouver. His 45-foot wrist shot from the left boards hopped into the net off the glove of Sanford, who was screened by teammate Brendan Morrison and Kings centre Michal Handzus.
"I saw it leave his stick, and then I just tried to put my body into the space where I thought it would hit me. But it just went off my glove," Sanford said. "I knew it didn't hit me flush. It was just bad that I didn't look behind me in the first place, because I probably might have had a chance to get it."
Kings forward Scott Thornton, playing his second game after missing the previous seven with a bruised sternum, got into a fight with Mike Brown at 5:35 of the first period and received an additional two minutes for cross-checking. The Canucks scored with a second left on the ensuing power play to tie it.