LOS ANGELES (TICKER) —Andrew Cassels scored an empty-net goal with 48 seconds left in overtime as the Columbus Blue Jackets eliminated the Los Angeles Kings from playoff contention with a 2-1 victory.
Needing a win to stay alive, Kings coach Andy Murray used three forwards at the start of overtime. Shortly after Columbus defenseman Jamie Allison was penalized for high-sticking at 2:05, Murray pulled goaltender Cristobal Huet for a 5-on-3 advantage.
“I was glad to see him out, I know that,” Blue Jackets coach Doug MacLean said. “That’s what you have to do, I guess. I wish I was in the position to have to do it. I’ve never experienced that before in my life. It made for a really exciting finish.”
The gamble nearly paid off as defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky had a chance to win it. But goalie J.F. Labbe slid across the crease and made a glove save. Moments later, Cassels scored into the empty net, giving the Blue Jackets a win and stripping the Kings of the point they earned in regulation.
“The guy jumped me at the red line, so I just threw it,” Cassels said. “I didn’t want to turn the puck over there. We were just fortunate it went in. I’ll take the empty-netter. I was a little surprised they pulled their goalie, but I guess they needed the two points.”
“Their bench was upset that we were pulling our goalie,” Murray said. “But I don’t think they understood the circumstances. It’s like a football coach settling for the tie when you can go for the two-pointer. What do we say to our fans if we don’t give our last-gasp effort? That’s what our team is all about.”
Los Angeles will miss the postseason for the first time since Murray replaced Larry Robinson for the 1999-2000 season.
Although injuries derailed the Kings’ bid for a fourth straight playoff berth, they also lost four times to the last-place Blue Jackets. Los Angeles was outscored, 14-5, and went 1-for-21 on the power play against Columbus, which has allowed a Western Conference-leading 242 goals.
“This is a team we should beat,” Kings defenseman Aaron Miller said. “But we’re just not a team that can win the close games right now.”
Labbe picked up his third NHL win in just his fourth start of the season. After being beaten by defenseman Jaroslav Modry at 8:06 of the second period, he stopped eight shots in the third and finished with 32 saves for his first win since January 11.
“When you’ve only made four starts, you got to take advantage of any opportunities that you get,” Labbe said. “It’s nice to get some playing time so I can get in the groove. So I felt pretty good tonight.”
“We tried to win it and we didn’t,” Los Angeles center Ian Laperriere said. “That’s the bottom line. It’s not like they outworked us.”
The Blue Jackets did little against Huet as defenseman Jaroslav Spacek forged a 1-1 tie 2:43 into the third. His ninth goal came after Andrej Nedorost was stopped by Huet on a penalty shot with 3:51 left in the second.
Labbe stopped the first 16 shots before Modry netted the 44th goal by a Kings’ defenseman and his 13th. He emerged from behind the net, stopped at the right faceoff circle and threw a wrist shot over the goalie’s stick for Los Angeles’ first power-play tally against Columbus.
Modry also was involved in the play that led to Nedorost’s penalty shot. With Nedorost breaking in alone, Modry hauled him down in the slot. But Huet slid and made a pad save on the first penalty shot he has faced.
Spacek scored a power-play goal off a feed from Cassels, beating Huet with a slap shot to the glove side.