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Canucks beat Kings to clinch Presidents' Trophy

by Dhiren Mahiban
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- For the first time in franchise history, the Vancouver Canucks are the NHL's best regular-season team.

The Canucks wrapped up the Presidents' Trophy on Thursday night by beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 before a raucous, sold-out crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Arena. The win came about three hours after the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers, the only team left that could have caught the Canucks, lost 1-0 to Atlanta.

The Canucks, who entered the NHL in 1970, have 113 points with four games remaining. They will have the home-ice edge for as long as they're in the playoffs as they try for the first Stanley Cup in team history.

The win also marks the first time the Canucks have won 13 games in a single month -- they finished March with a 13-2-0 record.

"It's an accomplishment," said center Ryan Kesler, whose power-play goal late in the third period capped the scoring. "You work hard to be the best and we have the best record now - it's going to stay that way."

NHL scoring leader Daniel Sedin became the first player to reach 100 points this season by scoring Vancouver's first goal and assisting on Kesler's clincher. The Canucks also became the first team this season to hold an opponent without a shot -- they outshot the Kings 16-0 in the third period.

The loss keeps the Kings in fifth place in the Western Conference with 94 points. L.A. is one point behind fourth-place Phoenix and even with Nashville -- the Kings have a game in hand on both teams, keeping them in front of the Predators.

Despite playing without their top two scorers, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, the Kings quieted the crowd by taking the lead when Kyle Clifford finished off a perfect feed from defenseman Drew Doughty at 13:09 of the opening period.

"We had a couple penalties that cost us (a chance) to get back into the game," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "The start was good, the game was good. There was good intensity, it was a good atmosphere. There was a lot of emotion in the building with the fans. I thought we matched that and were ready to go. We got that first goal, which is always important."

But the second period was all Vancouver, as Daniel Sedin and Christian Ehrhoff scored late goals 4:53 apart to put the Canucks ahead.

Daniel provided an excellent example of taking a hit to make a play as he was hammered with an open-ice hit by Doughty, but came in on a 2-on-1 and beat Jonathan Quick to the far side at 15:06 for his 41st of the season. Sedin was not impressed with the Doughty hit and went back and gave the defenseman a jab with his stick.

"You never want to get hit like that, but that's what happened," he said.

Added Roberto Luongo, "It was huge. He made a great play on the rush. I don't think he saw (Doughty) coming at all. He was able to get the shot off and luckily it wasn't a hit that was directed too high there."

The Canucks, who had a goal disallowed at the end of the first period because the horn had sounded before the puck crossed the line, were more successful at beating the clock at the end of the second. Ehrhoff joined the rush and blew a shot from the slot past Quick with :00.9 remaining for his 13th of the season.

Clifford ended whatever chance the Kings might have had for a comeback with 6:24 remaining when he hit Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev from behind. Tanev remained down on the ice for a couple of minutes -- and Clifford was assessed five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind. Tanev left the game immediately under his own strength, but did not return.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Tanev had an upper-body injury and would be re-evaluated on Friday.

Matt Greene picked up a cross-checking penalty 37 seconds later, giving Vancouver a 5-on-3 advantage for 2:00, and Kesler finished off a nice passing play by beating Quick from below the left circle for his 37th of the season.

For just the fifth time in franchise history the Kings were held without a shot in a period as they failed to get a puck on the Canucks net in the third.

With the win the Canucks improved to 37-0-3 when leading after two periods.

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