Vancouver's Daniel Sedin reacts after scoring the go-ahead goal… (Harry How / Getty Images )
This loss gnawed at the Kings, and it should.
Because as much as they blamed the referees for allowing mayhem to reign before Daniel Sedin scored the go-ahead goal in a 3-1 Vancouver victory Saturday, they knew they were also at fault for playing below their capabilities.
Bodies were flying in the third period of a heated game at Staples Center as the Canucks cycled the puck in the Kings' zone. The puck came to defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who took a close-range shot at Jonathan Quick. To the right of the crease Vancouver forward Alex Burrows made contact with Quick; to the left, Sedin shoved defenseman Drew Doughty to the ice and onto Quick, who was on his knees.
Sedin, the NHL's scoring leader, pounced on the rebound and scored at 11:36. Quick jumped up to protest and Doughty also gave referees Chris Lee and Dan O'Rourke an earful, banking enough ill will to later earn a misconduct penalty.
"Burrows runs into me as the original shot's getting taken and it's not called. Maybe [if] I dive like they do you get that call. Otherwise I guess you don't," Quick said.
He said he didn't see the cross-check on Doughty.
"I just realized that on the original shot I'm not allowed to make the save I want to make because Burrows bumps me," Quick said. "You've got to allow the goaltender to attempt to make the save he's trying to make. You can't do that.
"Other than that, at the end of the day we didn't play good enough. We've got to play better."
Naturally, Burrows' account differed.
"I wouldn't say I ran into him. I might have nudged his stick a little bit, but it's a fast game and things are going to happen," Burrows said. "Unfortunately for him he lost balance and we were able to score."
Doughty said Sedin should have been penalized.
"In a defensive position there's not really much you can do with a guy cross-checking you from behind, and he's the one that scored the goal, too," Doughty said. "In my opinion that should never happen, never been a goal."
Kings Coach Terry Murray usually keeps his emotions in check but angrily exited his postgame news conference after taking two questions.
"The guy's in the crease, Quick can't move his stick, and Doughty is pushed off over top of our goaltender. It's a . . . damn shame that that goal is allowed," he said. "It should not be allowed. That's a penalty."
The goal stood and Burrows scored into an empty net with 37 seconds left for the league-leading Canucks, who outshot the Kings, 36-22.
"We have a lot better than that," said Doughty, who wondered how he could be penalized for diving with 4:46 left in the third period at the same time Vancouver's Keith Ballard was banished for tripping.
"I know we're all not happy with the way we played. The next one is a must win and we're going to be at our best."
It was only the Kings' third regulation loss in their last 18 games, and for those seeking encouragement, recently acquired forward Dustin Penner scored his first goal as a King. The brawny left wing used his strength to win the puck in the corner and benefitted from a double deflection off forward Maxim Lapierre and goalie Roberto Luongo at 5:28 of the first period.
But the Kings generated few scoring opportunities after that, and in the tight West playoff chase one missed chance could result in missing the playoffs.
"I don't think we played awful by any means, but I don't think our shot count was that high. We need to get more pucks to the net," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said.
The Canucks matched Penner's goal at 9:16 of the first period. Raffi Torres spun away from Jack Johnson behind the net and threw the puck in front, where Jannik Hansen leaned past Quick for a nifty back-hander at 9:16.
Less than four minutes after Sedin put the Canucks ahead, the Kings had a power play but failed to convert, one of six fruitless advantages.
"We could play better. We had some breakdowns," center Anze Kopitar said. "Everything is compared to playoffs right now. Every single point is huge."
So are the missed opportunities.