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Canucks top Kings, cling to faint playoff hopes

The SportsXchange

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Playing desperate hockey has become a way of life for the Vancouver Canucks.

With their backs pressed against the wall, the Canucks pushed back Saturday night. Right winger Brad Richardson scored a late third-period goal in a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings that kept Vancouver's flickering NHL playoff hopes alive.

The Canucks went into the final period trailing 1-0 and knowing a regulation loss would officially eliminate them from the playoffs. Instead of heaping extra pressure on his team, coach John Tortorella kept the players loose and Vancouver responded by outshooting the Kings 20-7 in the final 20 minutes.

"It seems like we talked about that for a while," Richardson said about the Canucks' playoff plight. "Torts isn't trying to put any extra pressure on us. We know where we are. Whatever happens, happens."

Richardson scored the winner with 1:23 left in the game when he took a pass from right winger Zack Kassian and fired a shot past the glove of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. A frustrated Quick smashed his stick after the goal and was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

"Kas has had some good vision lately," said Richardson, a former King who signed with Vancouver last summer as a free agent. "He found me in the second period and I didn't score for him. We would have screamed at me if I didn't get that one."

Defenseman Alex Edler tied the score on a Canucks power play early in the third period.

Defenseman Slava Voynov scored a power-play goal for the Kings. LA (45-26-6, 96 points) is headed to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.

"I thought we played well," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It was tough.

"We scored one goal, a power-play goal. It's tough to win on the road."

The Dallas Stars' 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier Saturday night meant the Canucks needed at least one point to keep from being mathematically eliminated in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Vancouver still has a fight on its hand. The Canucks record improved to 35-32-11 for 81 points, but they remain six points behind eighth-place Dallas and five back of ninth-place Phoenix. Vancouver has four games remaining.

Kassian said the win showed the Canucks refuse to quit.

"That shows the character of the team," said Kassian, who now has eight points (two goals, six assists) in the last six games. "We could have folded once they scored and packed our bags, but we didn't. We competed and stuck with our game plan."

Kings defenseman Matt Greene left the game during the third period with his skate covered in blood after being hit on the ankle by a shot. He returned to play.

After the game, Greene wore an ice pack on the ankle and lamented the Kings losing their second close game. They were beaten 2-1 in San Jose on Thursday night.

"It's frustrating," he said. "We've got to start locking it down. We have to be able to go into the third period and win those games."

Los Angeles opened the scoring late in the second period after Vancouver defenseman Frank Corrado was called for interference.

Kings center Jeff Carter dug the puck out from a scrum behind the Vancouver net and sent a pretty pass to a wide-open Voynov in the slot. He beat Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack with a high shot for his fourth goal of the season.

The Canucks tied it early in the third period after LA right winger Dustin Brown was called for roughing. A pass by Vancouver left winger Daniel Sedin deflected off Edler's skate.

NOTES: The game's first penalty was not called until 8:10 of the second period, when Kings D Matt Greene was sent off for delay of game. Then four penalties were called in just over four minutes. ... Kings D Drew Doughty was scratched with an upper-body injury. He was replaced by D Andrew Campbell. ... Coming into the game, Los Angeles had outscored its opponents 70-57 in the third period and Vancouver had been outscored 74-56. ... C Henrik Sedin returned to the Canucks' lineup after missing four games with a knee injury. ... Many believe Vancouver GM Mike Gillis sent a warning to coach John Tortorella this week when he told a local radio station: "If people don't want to get on-side with how I view this team and how it's supposed to play, then they won't be here." ... Vancouver D Frank Corrado, called up from the AHL Utica Comets, replaced D Yannick Weber.

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