The Vancouver Canucks lost their first game against the Los Angeles Kings and Marc Crawford since firing him in the offseason, but they don’t seem to have suffered by replacing their all-time winningest coach.
The Canucks, with Alain Vigneault one victory away from setting a team record by a first-year coach, look to extend a five-game winning streak when they face Crawford and the Kings on Thursday.
Crawford, who set a Canucks record with 246 wins from 1999-2006, led Los Angeles (20-31-10) to a 3-2 overtime victory in Vancouver (35-21-4) on Jan 26. He was fired after the Canucks went 42-32-8 last season and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
“You don’t want to make too much out of it, but sure, it’s nice,” Crawford said after the last meeting. “You see lots of familiar faces and lots of friends and now they’re our new foes so it’s kind of neat. They’ve had some great success this year and we haven’t, so from that standpoint it’s always nice when you can one-up them.”
While the Kings are in last place in the Western Conference, Vigneault and the Canucks are on a roll and lead the Northwest Division with 74 points. Vigneault’s 35 wins are tied with Tom Renney for the most by a Vancouver first-year coach.
The Canucks began a four-game road trip with their league-leading 23rd one-goal victory, beating Anaheim 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night in a matchup of division leaders.
Vancouver is 18-3-3—including 10-1-1 on the road—since Dec. 26, and hasn’t lost since falling 3-0 to Chicago on Feb. 7. The Canucks, though, have had a tough time in Los Angeles, going 3-11-1 with four ties there since Jan. 7, 1997.
Naslund tied the score at 2 with 15:54 left in regulation with his 20th goal, reaching the mark for the eighth straight season to tie Stan Smyl’s franchise record.
Henrik Sedin assisted on Bieksa’s goal as the Canucks improved to 110-35-16 when both Sedin brothers get a point in the same game.
Los Angeles is also coming off a win over Anaheim, 4-3 in a shootout on Sunday night.
Lubomir Visnovsky scored in the sixth round of Los Angeles’ second shootout in a row against Anaheim. The Kings lost 3-2 to the Ducks the previous night.
“This was a hard-fought series,” Crawford said. “I’m really happy that our guys played well. We looked at it as a playoff series for our guys. We prepared for it like a playoff series.”
Los Angeles center Michael Cammalleri had a goal and two assists Sunday, giving him 11 goals and 15 assists in his last 19 games.
Kings captain Mattias Norstrom is expected to miss his second straight game because of a knee injury, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Web site. He hopes to be back in the lineup by the end of the week.