VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Vancouver Canucks are in the driver’s seat heading down to the end of their regular season.
Chris Higgins scored in a shootout and Eddie Lack make 36 saves as the Canucks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 on Monday night to solidify their hold on second place in the Pacific Division.
The win means the Canucks have 97 points, four points clear of third-place Calgary with two games remaining. The Canucks can lock in home-ice advantage for the opening round with a win Thursday at home over Arizona. Their season finale is Saturday at home to Edmonton.
However, just because Vancouver has some breathing room doesn’t mean it’s going to take these final games lightly.
“It’s really close, but we got a job to do here Thursday,” said Lack. “These are the kind of teams we’ve had difficulty with before, too, so we have to be really on top of our toes and just take it shift by shift and grind it out.”
Daniel Sedin scored in regulation for the Canucks. His goal came on a beautiful pass from his brother Henrik. The assist was Henrik’s 700th of his career and Rogers Arena erupted after the milestone.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big a reaction,” said Henrik Sedin. “If you play long enough and you are mostly injury-free you are going to reach some numbers.”
Dwight King scored for the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, who moved into a third-place tie at 93 points with Calgary in the Pacific. However, the Flames own a tiebreaker with more regulation and overtime wins.
Los Angeles also dropped one point behind Winnipeg for the second wild card in the Western Conference entry. The Jets downed the Wild 2-0 earlier in the night.
The Kings have three more games, including at Edmonton on Tuesday night, then a big game at Calgary on Thursday before heading home to play San Jose on Saturday.
“We have to go into Edmonton tomorrow and make sure we get two points,” said Kings forward Anze Kopitar. “Everything is obviously very important right now.”
Jonathan Quick, who finished with 37 saves, was as impressive as his counterpart, Lack.
“Lack made some great saves, as did Jonathan. That was the difference in the game tonight,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “Not the overtime or shootout, the difference was probably those great chances during regulation.”
The Kings jumped in front only 1:13 in when Jeff Carter skated hard down the right side and sent the puck into the crease where King put it in.
With LA on the power play minutes later, Lack looked sharp as he stoned Drew Doughty on a slap shot.
Quick was equally impressive at the other end, as he stopped a point-black wrist shot from Bo Horvat.
Lack was back at it halfway through the second period, standing tall on a 2-on-1 against Kopitar, who took a pass from Marian Gaborik.
The Canucks finally solved Quick with a goal just as a Vancouver power play expired. Henrik Sedin skated behind the net before backhanding a no-look pass to Daniel at the faceoff circle. Daniel fired it past Quick.
“We approached it (like a playoff game) and I think they did, too,” said Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa. “It was two pretty important points to us in a game where we give up the first goal again. It was an exciting game for sure.”
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