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Kings clinch post-season berth with win over Canucks

Alex Iafallo Anze Kopitar Los Angeles Kings Alex Iafallo Anze Kopitar - The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks have known for months that the math was against them.

Being eliminated from playoff contention Sunday still stung.

“We pretty much knew a couple of games ago, it was unrealistic to make it," star centre Elias Pettersson said after the Canucks dropped a 4-1 decision to the L.A. Kings.

"But we still play with pride and try to build for next season. So these games are important. We have (five) games left to build.”

While L.A. sealed its post-season spot with the win, it was the Winnipeg Jets' 6-1 routing of the New Jersey Devils that finally snuffed out any lingering hope Vancouver would make a late playoff run.

The Canucks (34-25-7) have now missed the playoffs for three straight years, and for seven of the last eight NHL seasons.

The slump has left a hungriness not only among the players but staff, too, said head coach Rick Tocchet.

“I want to win every game," he said. "It sucks, four months off. But like I said, we’ve got some really good players here that want to win. And they're going to lead the charge for us this summer.”

Kings coach Todd McLellan, meanwhile, said he can "breathe a little bit" knowing L.A. (45-22-10) has clinched its playoff berth.

"That's a hell of an accomplishment for our group," he said. "I thought tonight was a tough night for us to play, a lot of heavy games on this trip and to play back-to-back, short turnaround, complete team win tonight."

Alex Iafallo led L.A. with two goals, while Arthur Kaliyev and Blake Lizotte each scored and notched an assist. Anze Kopitar contributed a pair of helpers for the Kings, who were coming off a 3-1 win over the Seattle Kraken on Saturday.

Brock Boeser recorded the lone goal for the Canucks (34-35-7) early in the first period and Thatcher Demko stopped 21-of-23 shots.

L.A. took a 2-1 lead 3:25 into the second period when Iafallo put away his second goal of the night — and 14th of the season — on a power play.

Viktor Arvidsson fired a shot off the post and the rebound fell into traffic in front of the Vancouver net, where Iafallo muscled it in to give the visitors the advantage.

L.A. went 1-for-2 with the man advantage Sunday and Vancouver was 0-for-4.

Once the Kings went ahead on the scoreboard, the Canucks didn't compete that hard, said Vancouver centre J.T. Miller.

“We know that that team is very comfortable in that situation. That's how they're meant to play, is 2-1 hockey, a great playoff team, that it wasn’t going to come easy," he said.

"We had some good looks, yes, but it just feels a little too soft right now. I don’t know. It doesn't feel like we're that hard to play against sometimes.”

Kaliyev made it 3-1 midway through the third, batting a rebound into the top corner of the Vancouver net from the hash marks for his 12th goal of the season at the 13:36 mark.

The Canucks pulled Demko with 2:31 left on the game clock in favour of an extra attacker, but couldn't claw their way back into the game.

Instead, Lizotte collected a pass from Kaliyev and sent an easy shot into the empty net with 49 seconds to go.

Vancouver had a prime opportunity to tie the game at 2-2 earlier in the final frame when Arvidsson was called for slashing.

Andrei Kuzmenko lined up a shot in front of the Kings' net, but Iafallo got a stick in his path, sending the puck up and into the netting.

Sunday marked Vancouver's third straight loss (0-1-2) after a stretch that saw them win five of six outings.

"I know that everyone in here is trying their hardest," said defenceman Quinn Hughes. "And I think that we've played pretty good since the All-Star break and made some gains in certain areas, but at the same time, we're not there yet.

"So we’re trying our best in here and a lot of guys are trying their best and it just is what it is.”


L.A. winger Kevin Fiala was held out with an undisclosed injury. Kings defenceman Alex Edler left with an upper-body injury midway through the first period and did not return. McLellan did not have an update on Edler's status after the game.


Elias Pettersson saw his career-high 14-game point streak snapped. The Canucks star centre registered eight goals and 12 assists across the stretch.


Canucks defenceman Akito Hirose made his NHL debut, coming in for the injured Guillaume Brisebois. Vancouver signed the 23-year-old Hirose to a one-year, entry-level contract on Wednesday after he wrapped up his collegiate career with Minnesota State University. He is the 15th blue liner to play for the Canucks this season.


Canucks: Continue a five-game homestand Tuesday against the Seattle Kraken.

Kings: Host the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2023.