LOS ANGELES (AP) -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.
|Anze Kopitar (right) scored the go-ahead goal in Monday's 4-2 win over the Canucks. (AP)
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 pregame warmup, which indicated he would start. But he shut it down about 4 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."
|Derek Armstrong had his second multi-point game of the season. (AP)
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 center 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 2 minutes for cross-checking. The Canucks scored with a second left on the ensuing power play to tie it.
Notes: Jeff Cowan, who was claimed off waivers by the Canucks on Dec. 6, 2006, was sidelined because of a second degree shoulder separation. He was injured Saturday. Cowan also missed 12 games earlier this season with a hip flexor. ... All four of Sanford's starts have been on the road. ... Vancouver had allowed no more than two goals in any of its previous seven games, a stretch that began with consecutive shutouts against Chicago, Anaheim and Columbus. The Canucks gave up more than three goals for only the second time in 23 games since losing 4-2 against the Kings on Oct. 19 at Vancouver.
KINGS HEAD COACH MARC CRAWFORD:
(Re: game recap) “It was a real team effort tonight. I thought we got a terrific effort from our defensive core... The line that won the game for us tonight was Armstrong’s line. We had an effort from everybody and we scored a big five-on-three goal to fortify the win.”
KINGS FORWARD MICHAEL CAMMALLERI:
(Re: physical game) “I think we are doing a good job responding when we need to. [Rob Blake] is our leader. He is the one that is showing us the way. It’s unacceptable to hit our goalie and it’s unacceptable to hit guys when they are in vulnerable positions and we’re going to react when it happens.”
CANUCKS HEAD COACH ALAIN VIGNEAULT:
(Re: game recap) “They came out strong and had a good first period. Their third goal was a timely goal because I felt we were coming on there a little bit. They played a strong game tonight and we just didn’t have enough of our players having a good game. The intention was there, but for some reason our game was off tonight.”
CANUCKS GOALIE CURTIS SANFORD:
(Re: Last Minute Start) “It’s a little tougher to get in there last minute. You always prepare yourself to play whether you’re playing or backing up. I knew I was prepared to get in there, and it was nice to get the start tonight… I knew when I signed in Vancouver that I wouldn’t get as much work as I did the last few years in St. Louis, so I work hard in practice to be prepared for situations like this.”