Given the way the Kings had played against Vancouver this season, scoring three goals against the Canucks on Thursday night would have been a huge improvement.
But…eight goals? That would have been nearly impossible to foresee.
That’s what the Kings did, though, as they scored the first five goals of the game. Dustin Brown recorded his second career hat trick and the Kings cruised to an 8-3 victory over the Canucks before a sellout crowd at STAPLES Center.
``I think we're starting to get that attitude, that mentality back that we had before the Olympic break, where we went through a long stretch and won consecutive games,’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``It's starting to come back. There's good feel in the room. They're talking the right way, saying the right things, and carrying it onto the ice.’’
The Kings had been 0-4-1 against the Canucks in their last five meetings, and had scored only one goal in each of their three meetings against Vancouver this season.
``For me, I haven't been scoring probably as much as I would have liked this year,’’ Brown said, ``but I think I've been playing pretty well, especially as of late. Obviously to get the goals tonight, it just gives you a little hop in your step when you have a game like tonight.’’
The Kings took Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, one of the game’s premier goalies, and peppered him for eight goals on 29 shots. There was even some international revenge for Brown and Johnson, whose United States Olympic team was beaten by Luongo on Canada in the gold-medal game on Feb. 28.
``I don't know if they've clinched, but they're definitely in the playoffs, and a possible opponent,’’ Brown said. ``They've kind of had our number all year, so to come out and play, we had an offensive outburst tonight. I thought we had a really good first period. We didn't give them much.
``Sometimes when you get in a game -- I think it was 5-0 at one point -- you start to get a little loose. We gave them chances as the game went on, but we kept the game out of reach for them from the first period on.’’
All that mattered on Thursday, though, was the two points that took the Kings to the brink of their first playoff appearance since 2002.
The Kings remain in seventh place in the Western Conference, one point behind Detroit and five points ahead of Colorado, which has one game in hand. Any combination of four points gained by the Kings or lost by Calgary will put the Kings in the playoffs.
In goal, the Kings went back to rookie Jonathan Bernier, who recorded his first NHL shutout on Tuesday. Bernier stopped 27 shots and didn't allow a goal until the Kings led 5-0 in the second period.
``He was outstanding,’’ Murray said. ``They're a dangerous hockey club, with speed. They come in a lot of different directions. They've got the best scorer in the National Hockey League right now, and when you take a look at their back end, with guys like Salo and Ehrhoff, big point producers, and Salo is a great shooter. I thought he [Bernier] was focused, composed, under control. I thought he was outstanding.''
The Kings started well. After they killed off an early Vancouver power play, the Kings took a 1-0 lead 5:26 into the first period. Jeff Halpern made a nice neutral-zone pass to Brown, who carried the puck into the Canucks' zone and flipped a quick pass to Frolov as Frolov went hard to the net. Frolov put a backhand move on Luongo and scored.
The Kings took a two-goal lead with 3:59 remaining in the first period. Ryan Smyth worked the puck out of the corner in the Vancouver zone, and Johnson took a shot from the point. Luongo made the save, but Kopitar was alone in front of the net to pick up the rebound and score from close range.
A scary moment took place with 3:54 remaining in the period, when Vancouver forward Alex Burrows was struck in the chest area by a Stoll slap shot. Burrows went down, in clear discomfort, but was able to get up and quickly skate to the locker room. Halpern also had to leave the game in the first period after a hit behind the goal line.
Brown gave the Kings a 3-0 lead with 1:58 remaining in the first period. Johnson held the puck at the blue line, then skated in to the middle of the right circle and dropped a pass from Brown, whose one-timer from the high slot beat Luongo. Frolov also assisted, on the Kings' third goal on their seventh shot on goal.
The Kings' scoring carried over into the second period, as they scored 3:37 into the second period and just 13 seconds into a power play. Doughty's slap shot hit the post, but Stoll was right in front of the net to knock in the rebound. Kopitar also got an assist to set a new career high with his 78th point of the season.
Brown's second goal of the game, on the power play, gave the Kings a 5-0 lead 9:20 into the second period. Brown knocked in a rebound from the left side of the net after Smyth shot while even with the goal line. Doughty also got an assist.
Vancouver got on the board with a power-play goal with 7:17 remaining in the second period. Pavol Demitra shot, and the rebound went wide to Kyle Wellwood, who shot and scored from the left side before Bernier could recover. Bernier’s shutout streak ended at 111 minutes, 14 seconds.
The Canucks made it 5-2 just 39 seconds after they scored their first goal, as Ryan Kesler's wrist shot from the middle of the left circle beat Bernier short-side with 6:38 remaining in the second period.
Brown completed his hat tick 3:31 into the third period to give the Kings a 6-2 lead. Brown skated in on a 2-on-1, kept the puck and beat Luongo high with a forehand wrist shot.
``I was really happy for him here tonight,’’ Murray said. ``He's been fighting it, gripping his stick a little too hard sometimes. He's gone through stretches when he hasn't scored any goals. It's a great night to break through for him. I was very excited to see him have that kind of success.’’
Vancouver pulled back within three goals, at 6-3, with a goal 4:49 into the third period. Michael Grabner shot from the middle of the right circle, and Wellwood got the deflection in front for his second goal of the game.
The Kings regained their four-goal lad 6:38 into the third period. Justin Williams took the puck to the net from the right side, and got a deflection in front as the Kings scored their seventh goal on their 23rd shot.
The Kings made it 8-3 with 4:18 remaining in the third period. Luongo played the puck behind his net, but Michal Handzus stripped it and scored on a wraparound.
The Kings magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now at 4 (points earned by the Kings and points lost by Calgary. (Note: if the Kings win one more game or the Flames lose one more game the Kings would own the tie-breaker over Calgary.)...Dustin Brown had a career high four points (second career hat trick; first was Dec. 11, 2008 vs. STL)... The last time the Kings scored eight goals was Jan. 1, 2008 (beat CHI 9-2) ... Anze Kopitar 1-1=2 tonight, now has a career high 78 points ... Alexander Frolov (1-1=2), Jack Johnson (2a), Ryan Smyth (2a), Jarret Stoll (1-1=2) and Drew Doughty (2a) also had multi-point games ... Jonathan Bernier is 3-0-0 with the Kings this season (He held a shutout streak of 111:14 before Vancouver scored 12:43 into the second period ... The Kings are 29-0-0 when leading after two periods (Buffalo is the only other undefeated team when leading after two: 28-0-0) ... The club record for most wins in one season is 46 (1990-91) ... This year’s Kings team is the fastest club to win 44 games ... The win broke a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) to Vancouver ... Kopitar played in his 250th straight game (streak started March 21, 2007) ... Terry Murray is two wins away from most in one season (He’s had 45 wins three times).
1 - 0 LAK
2 - 0 LAK