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Kids lead Kings to easy win against Canucks

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES - Tyler Toffoli was a kid tearing up the Ontario Hockey League when the Los Angeles Kings revved up their rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks in the 2010 and 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Linden Vey was toiling in juniors and the American Hockey League.

They're both still kids, but the two announced themselves to Vancouver on a nationally televised stage Saturday night as the Kings routed the Canucks 5-1 at Staples Center.

Toffoli scored two goals and assisted on another while Vey made a highlight-reel assist in their first games against the Canucks. Fellow young-core teammates Dwight King and Jordan Nolan contributed a goal and two assists as L.A. carved up Vancouver's defense on Hockey Night in Canada.

Toffoli was expected to compete for a job in training camp, but coach Darryl Sutter didn't see enough to make room for him and sent Toffoli back to the AHL.

"It [stinks]," Toffoli said. "You don't want to be playing in the American League. You want to be playing in the NHL. It was definitely hard. I went down there. It took a little time to adjust back to hockey, and just started heating up again with not just myself, but the whole team is playing really well.

Toffoli and Vey are in L.A. because of injuries to Jeff Carter and Jarret Stoll. Carter was seen still wearing a walking boot after the game, so Toffoli doesn't figure to be going anywhere soon. But that's not his mindset.

"Same as the last time," Toffoli said. "I'm trying to earn my spot on the team and I'm working hard every day. I'm just trying to stay in the lineup, so we'll see how things keep going."

Jonathan Quick followed up his shutout Thursday with a strong 25-save game as the Kings, without leading goal-scorer Carter and key faceoff man Stoll, ended a stretch in which they played eight of nine games at Staples Center with six home wins.

Vancouver was the NHL's best road team (7-2-2) but watched the game slip away with a series of defensive lapses in the second period. Goalie Roberto Luongo was lifted in favor of Eddie Lack after he allowed four goals on 18 shots.

"One of those games," Luongo said. "They happen as individuals and a team. A stinker."

Daniel and Henrik Sedin were held without a point for the second straight game; perhaps with an eye toward a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, coach John Tortorella played them for only two shifts in the third period.

"It's totally fine with us," Daniel Sedin said. "We didn't play our best game either, so it's understandable. We've got a big game tomorrow, so we'll be ready.

"It was one of those games where we made mistakes and they made us pay for them. That was a big part of the game.

Vancouver will have to regroup against the NHL-leading Ducks on Sunday. How important is it to respond?

"I think that's the strength this team," Daniel Sedin said. "We usually don't have two bad games in a row. We'll be ready tomorrow against a very good team."

Toffoli, 21, was the beneficiary of some great passes, but his magnet-like attraction to the puck was evident. He tapped in Drew Doughty's feed from the left side for a 4-on-4 goal with 51 seconds left in the first period and finished an easy 2-on-1 during a defensive breakdown at 12:33 of the second for a 5-1 lead.

Toffoli, Vey and Tanner Pearson formed the top line for the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL and Vey showed why eight minutes into his second NHL game. The 22-year-old pounced on a puck that Dan Hamhuis couldn't collect at his feet, deked around former King Brad Richardson and set up Nolan for the first goal of the game at 12:23 of the first period.

"It's exciting for them," Mike Richards said of Toffoli and Vey. "They bring enthusiasm in practice and you can see it games- the skill level they have is pretty incredible. It's nice to see it kind of go from practice and get rewarded in the game."

Hamhuis made it 2-1 at 8:52 of the second period, but Vancouver then lost numerous puck battles and looked lost in its own zone during a three-goal blitz that put the game away. After a Kevin Bieksa turnover, two Vancouver players got preoccupied with King behind the net before King fed Richards for a 3-1 lead at the 10-minute mark. Not long afterward, defenseman Christopher Tanev gave Trevor Lewis a breakaway with an errant pass.

Some Canucks players acknowledged the perception that they were muscled off the puck by L.A., one of the bigger teams in the League.

"Those are battles you have to win," Henrik Sedin said. "I didn't think we were as strong in our defensive zone as we were in San Jose. We were too much on the outside. We gave them too much room in front of our net."

Quick withstood a seven-shot flurry midway through the first period and won his second straight game after a four-day break to sharpen his game.

"I thought in the first two periods, we had surges early," Tortorella said. "We couldn't score. I thought Quick made some really important saves at key times. We had some breakdowns and it's in the back of our net."

The Kings avenged a 2010 playoff loss to the Canucks when they eliminated them on their way to the 2012 Stanley Cup, largely with a relentless forecheck. It looked like that at times.

"The majority of the goals in this League are scored off the forecheck," Sutter said. "Tonight was no different."

Kings left wing Kyle Clifford left the game and did not return. Sutter said Clifford "got his bell rung."

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