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Kings rout Luongo and Canucks 8-3

by Josh Brewster
Even after jumping out to a 5-0 lead, Kings coach Terry Murray knows not to trust the Vancouver Canucks, who boast one of the League's best offenses.

"The kind of players they have, they have the leading scorer in the NHL in (Henrik) Sedin and a lot of speed on the wings," Murray said after Thursday's 8-3 rout of the Vancouver Canucks before a delighted sellout crowd at the Staples Center. "They can break in at any given time."

No need to worry tonight, coach. The Kings took care of business, making life easy for rookie goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who won for the second time in three nights.

But unlike Tuesday's 2-0 win at Nashville, in which neither team scored until well into the third period, the Kings pumped in three goals in the first and never looked back. Bernier's 27-save performance was overshadowed by Dustin Brown's first NHL hat trick and career-best four-point night.

Drew Doughty had two assists after a four-game pointless streak, while Anze Kopitar and Alexander Frolov scored their first goals in five games and added an assist. Jarret Stoll also added a goal and an assist, the goal his first in 15 games. Jack Johnson's two assists were notable after he recorded only one in the last 11 games. Kopitar surpassed his career-high for points with 78.

The Kings scored their eight goals on just 29 shots in one of the worst outings of Luongo's career as they solidified their hold on seventh place in the West. The Kings have 94 points, five more than eighth-place Colorado and nine more than the ninth-place Calgary Flames, as they try to wrap up their first playoff berth since 2002.

The win over the Canucks was the Kings' first in four games this season. L.A. ended a seven-game drought against the Predators with Tuesday's win in Nashville.

"Those are teams that we have not beaten in two years," Murray said of Nashville and Vancouver. "We've been close a few times, but Vancouver is a tough team to play against. They're physical, they're hard, they really shut things down in the neutral zone and they make it difficult to get any speed generated. We had a nice response from everybody here tonight."

Justin Williams and Michal Handzus also scored, and Ryan Smyth led three players with two assists apiece as the Kings snapped a five-game losing streak against the Northwest Division leaders, who could have clinched a playoff berth with one point.

The Canucks got two goals from Kyle Wellwood but never had a chance after falling behind 5-0 in the second period.

The Kings played Bernier for a second straight game instead of Jonathan Quick, who has already set a franchise record with 39 wins while starting 68 of L.A.'s first 75 games. Murray said Quick is still his starter and will be in goal for both games against Anaheim this weekend.

"Quick will play Saturday, and I'm looking at Quick for the next game also," he said.

Bernier, the Kings' first-round pick in 2006, has allowed four goals while winning all three starts he's made this season. But Murray made it clear there's no goaltending battle brewing.

"There's no controversy," he said. "Quick will play Saturday. He's our No. 1 goaltender. That's very clear. He's a big part of why we are where we are right now."

Brown completed his second career hat trick 3:31 into the third period, slipping behind the defense for a quick shot past Luongo on a 2-on-1, giving his team a 6-2 lead. Wellwood got his second of the night at 4:49, but goals by Williams and Handzus completed the Kings' biggest offensive night of the season.

"If you started every year asking me if I'd like 30 or 40 goals and be done with my season in April, or have 10 goals and be in the playoffs every year, I'd take the 10 goals," said Brown after increasing his goals total to 21. "This is a team sport. Everyone likes to score goals, but I'll take winning over scoring or points or pretty much anything."

Seven Kings had multi-point games against the Canucks, who hadn't allowed six goals since March 5. The eight goals against are the most they've allowed this season.

Brown had no explanation for his team's sudden burst of firepower after struggling to score over the last few weeks.

"I've been on the other end of those games as well," Brown said. "Those games come and go, and we'll take it at this time of year."

Frolov, Kopitar and Brown scored on three of the Kings' seven first-period shots to put Los Angeles ahead 3-0 after 20 minutes.

"We had the right kind of attitude in the first period," Murray said. "(We) got some good play and to be able to look up and see the 3-0 score felt good, but you're not comfortable with it."

Stoll and Brown added power-play goals to put the Kings up by five midway through the second period before Wellwood and Ryan Kesler scored 39 seconds apart for the Canucks.

The Canucks played without second-leading scorer Daniel Sedin, whose back spasms sidelined him for the first time since late November. Vancouver replaced him with Pavol Demitra, who had two assists in his first game after sitting out four games to be with his ailing wife.

NHL scoring leader Henrik Sedin had an assist for his 105th point, keeping him three points ahead of Washington's Alex Ovechkin.

Vancouver's Tanner Glass blindsided Kings forward Jeff Halpern on a check in the corner during the first period, earning a charging penalty and immediately getting in a fight with Matt Greene. Halpern missed the rest of the game with an upper-body injury.

"I didn't see the replay, so I couldn't comment on it," coach Alain Vigneault said when asked whether the hit might warrant a review.

Stoll hit Vancouver's Alex Burrows in the upper chest with a slap shot during a power play late in the period. Burrows dropped to the ice while kicking his legs in pain, but got up and skated swiftly to the dressing room.

"It's tougher to swallow right now, but the pain is gone," said Burrows, a 35-goal scorer. "I kind of wanted to go back out there with the boys, but I decided to ice it, let the swelling go down a bit."

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