Game 79; 45-28-6
VANCOUVER - The first two periods provided some fairly uneventful hockey. Neither team looked determined to set the tone for the game and despite the shots being 20 to 19, it lacked excitement to put it simply. In the third, the excitement picked up and, unfortunately for the Los Angeles Kings, they fell on the wrong end of controversy.
With the Kings already in the playoffs, their opponents, the Vancouver Canucks, entered Saturday night fighting for their playoff lives. Amidst all of the drama lately involving the futures of their coach and GM, the Canucks were still in the hunt for a playoff spot, looking to avoid a season series sweep at the hands of the Kings.
If no one else, both goaltenders were sharp on this night. Jonathan Quick and Eddie Lack each kept the game scoreless for much of the night with the former getting plenty of help from his defense who did a remarkable clearing away loose pucks, preventing Vancouver from jumping on any rebounds. But Lack was the first to blink as Slava Voynov ended a 59-game goalless drought, putting the Kings up in the final minute of the second. Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik provided the assists. Surely, a late goal could have given the silver-and-black an extra jolt of momentum.
Early in the third, however, Dustin Brown took a penalty and Alex Edler tipped his seventh as a result to tie the game. The goal was scored just 1:06 into the third with both Sedin brothers assisting.
From there, the Canucks dominated as they opened the period outshooting Los Angeles 10-0. I couldn't even recall the last time the Kings were so outplayed in a period. Nevertheless, the Canucks couldn't take the lead but the Kings continued to struggle with offensive opportunities of their own. But despite taking three penalties in the first eight minutes of the third, the Kings were unscathed, remaining tied.
Unfortunately, controversy reared its ugly head in the late stages of this one. In the final two minutes of regulation, Alex Edler blindsided Marian Gaborik with a hit. While the hit wasn't illegal in another circumstance, Gaborik (nor Edler) were anywhere the near the puck. A hit like this would call for an automatic interference infraction, especially when a linesman is standing right there in full view of said hit. Somehow, the penalty was not called. Luckily for the Kings and their fans, Gaborik was able to get to his feet unharmed. However, the Canucks scored on the same play as former King Brad Richardson potted the game-winner with 1:23 to go in the third.
In reaction to the non-call only moments before, Jonathan Quick whacked his stick over the crossbar in disgust, which led to an unsportsmanlike conduct call against him. How Quick was called for that and the countless other netminders around the league who have reacted the same way weren't is beyond me. But Quick was penalized and the Canucks ran out the clock, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive with the win.
While this loss really doesn't mean anything for the Kings - they will finish third in the Pacific either way - an ending like this is certainly not what they had in mind. In the bigger picture, while there wasn't any harm done on this night, a critical non-call could cost the Kings dearly in two weeks against Anaheim or San Jose in the playoffs. With that said, however, the Kings should also get back in the habit of holding third-period leads. After going 21-0-2 for much of the season, Los Angeles has now lost three in the last month when leading after two periods.
It doesn't change their playoff seeding but with this type of conclusion to a game, the Los Angeles Kings must be very disappointed.
Fortunately, they have a few days off before their next game, against the Flames in Calgary on Wednesday evening.