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Vancouver Canucks lose to L.A. Kings

The Vancouver Canucks will have to wait to officially clinch a post-season berth after dropping a 3-2 decision to the L.A. Kings in a playoff-type game Monday.

It was a frustrating result, said Canucks forward Sam Lafferty.

“They’re a great team. We know what to expect and pretty much every game from here on out is going to be like that,” he said. “So I think we’re gearing up, we’re trending in the right direction. It just wasn’t our night.”

The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the Canucks, who remain atop the Western Conference standings, one point up on the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars.

Vancouver could have been the first NHL squad to officially secure their playoff spot with a win.

“There’s going to be a lot of hard games here coming down and I think this is good prep for us,” said Canucks forward J.T. Miller. “And we’ve got to find a way to win games like that, not give up the late one in the second or whatever happened. I mean, they’re all tight against L.A. That’s just going to be how it is this time of year.”

Anze Kopitar scored and notched an assist as the Kings (38-22-11) ground out a victory that stretched their win streak to four games.

Blake Lizotte and Kevin Fiala also found the back of the net for the visitors and Cam Talbot stopped 21-of-23 shots.

The Canucks (45-19-8) got goals from Lafferty and Brock Boeser, and 16 saves from Casey DeSmith.

“It’s a coin flip type of game. They hit heads and won,” said Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet. “They got a couple around the paint. I think that’s really what it comes down to.”

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The Canucks pulled DeSmith in favour of an extra attacker with just over four and a half minutes on the game clock.

The move paid off when Boeser’s shot from the top of the right faceoff circle hit Kopitar’s skate and deflected in past Talbot, cutting the deficit to 3-2 at the 17:06 mark of the third period.

Boeser leads Vancouver with 37 goals on the season.

Canucks coach Rick Tocchet called a 30-second timeout with less than a minute to go. With DeSmith once again out of the net, Vancouver pressed for the tying goal.

The team got a prime opportunity when L.A.’s Drew Doughty was sent to the box for tripping with 21 seconds to go, but the Canucks couldn’t bury a final shot during the stretch of six-on-four hockey.

“It got a little hairy there at the end, there’s no question,” said L.A.’s interim coach, Jim Hiller. “A couple of saves by (Talbot) and guys blocked some shots, got it done. It’s a good team. We’re proud to beat them.”

The Kings took a 3-1 advantage late in the second, scoring twice in less than two minutes.

Kopitar collected his 24th of the season at the 18:20 mark. DeSmith got a piece of the veteran forward’s long blast but couldn’t hang on to the puck, which fell to the crease. Kopitar came around the back of the net and tapped it in to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.

Lizotte restored L.A.’s lead 16:29 into the second on a delayed penalty after Vancouver’s Carson Soucy was clocked for tripping.

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With six skaters on the ice, Lizotte uncorked a one timer that hit Canucks defenceman Ian Cole at the side of the net before pinging off each of Soucy’s skates on its way in past DeSmith.

Kopitar got an assist on the play and has multiple points in four straight games, with four goals and five assists across the stretch.

Vancouver’s third line ground out a tying goal 12:50 into the first.

Lafferty fought off Alex Laferriere along the boards, then muscled his way to the front of the net and popped a silky wrist shot in to level the score at 1-1.

A bad Canucks line change created an odd-man advantage for the Kings midway through the opening frame. With the home side down a player, Pierre-Luc Dubois sent a pass to Fiala in the slot and Fiala fired a shot in past a diving DeSmith to give the Kings a 1-0 lead 7:01 into the game.

HELPING OUT

Kopitar recorded his 40th assist of the season. This is the 14th time he’s accomplished the feat in his career, a milestone he shares with just one active player – Sidney Crosby.

INS AND OUTS

Canucks centre Elias Lindholm sat out with an undisclosed injury. Tocchet said the Swedish forward is “day to day.” Defenceman Ian Cole returned to Vancouver’s lineup after missing two games for what Tocchet previously called “maintenance.”

ON THE FARM

The Canucks have assigned prospect Jonathan Lekkerimaki to the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Canucks. The 19-year-old winger is coming off a Swedish Hockey League season that saw him register 19 goals and 12 assists for Orebro HK. Vancouver picked Lekkerimaki 15th overall in the 2022 draft.

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UP NEXT

Canucks: Host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

Kings: Take on the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2024.

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