LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thanks to an injury, a suspension and a weird salary-cap quirk, the Los Angeles Kings had to take on surging Vancouver with only five defensemen in uniform.
The Kings’ remaining blueliners handled the extra work just as splendidly as the defending Stanley Cup champions handled the Canucks.
Tyler Toffoli had a goal and two assists, and Jonathan Quick made 18 saves in the Kings’ 5-1 victory Saturday night.
Alec Martinez had a career-high three assists for Los Angeles, which dressed just five defensemen when Robyn Regehr sat out with an injury. The Kings couldn’t recall a defenseman to fill in for Regehr or suspended Slava Voynov because they were roughly $160 shy of enough cap room to make a move.
So Drew Doughty played 29:46, and Jake Muzzin clocked 25:36 while recording his first multipoint game of the season. Matt Greene and Brayden McNabb also logged extra shifts as the Kings mixed-and-matched their pairings to great success.
“I’ve never come across anything like that before, but you’ve got to deal with the hand you’re dealt,” said Martinez, who played 25:30. “We’ve all played with each other in practice. You play with everybody. We’ve been here long enough. We know each other’s tendencies.”
A steadily increasing lead also helped.
Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Muzzin had a goal and an assist apiece in just the Kings’ second win in seven games. Los Angeles jumped to a five-goal lead while abruptly returning to top form to demolish the Canucks, who had won six of seven.
“That was one of our best games of the season, and a lot of fun,” Toffoli said. “We had the puck for a lot of the time. We came out really strong and kept our feet moving.”
Kopitar and Gaborik also came through with their first multipoint games of the season after coach Darryl Sutter singled out the top-line stars for their lack of productivity in a loss to the Islanders on Thursday.
Ryan Miller yielded four goals on 22 shots before Eddie Lack replaced him to start the third period. Vancouver avoided its first shutout loss of the season on Chris Higgins’ goal with 7:53 to play, but struggled through a dismal night in an otherwise stellar start to the season.
“I thought our goaltending was fine,” Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said. “We just didn’t play very good. We talked about (how) this trip would kind of show us where we’re at — and it’s shown us where we’re at. We’re not good enough right now, and we have to get better. … Teams are playing us like we’re a 10-4 team. There’s a difference when teams are really ready for you and when they’re not, and we’re getting teams that are really ready for us.”
Miller had won seven straight while starting out 10-1-0 for normally stingy Vancouver, which had yielded more than two goals just once in seven games. The Canucks have lost their last four games at Staples Center, getting outscored 14-3.
“We’ve played good for a while, but we made too many mistakes tonight,” captain Henrik Sedin said. “That’s a team where you have to keep it simple, because if you make mistakes, they’re going to hurt you. … We’ve been able to roll four lines and score timely goals, and that’s what we need to win, especially in this conference. We got none of that tonight.”
Los Angeles dominated from the opening minutes. Gaborik scored his first goal of an injury-slowed season off a rebound midway through the first period, and Muzzin wired a long wrist shot through traffic nearly five minutes later.
Kopitar scored on a sharp-angled wrist shot past Miller’s ear late in the first, and Toffoli scored his seventh goal of the season on a rebound midway through the second.
NOTES: Kopitar’s last multipoint game was Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against Chicago last May. He posted just seven points in his 19 games since then. … Longtime Kings prospect Linden Vey earned an assist for Vancouver on Higgins’ goal. Los Angeles traded its former fourth-round pick to the Canucks last June. … Carter earned an assist on Toffoli’s goal, snapping his six-game scoreless streak, tied for the longest of his career.
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