If the Kings haven’t started scoreboard watching, they might want to consider giving it a try. Because while the team has all but clinched a playoff berth, there’s still a lot of work left to do to determine who and where the Kings will play in the postseason.
And much of that work will be done in games the Kings aren’t playing in.
Consider Monday, when the Kings beat the Vancouver Canucks, 5-1, behind two third-period scores from Jeff Carter, the second giving him 300 for his career.
The five goals were the most in a game in nearly a month for the Kings. And it was the team’s most one-sided victory since Feb. 9. Yet, it was worth only a point in the Pacific Division standings since the first-place Ducks took Washington to a shootout before losing.
For the record, Coach Darryl Sutter has said he doesn’t care about any title that doesn’t come with a Stanley Cup attached. But a division title, something the Kings haven’t won in a quarter-century, would mean a No. 1 or No. 2 playoff seed and, presumably, an easier run through the postseason.
To get that the Kings are going to need some help since they lost their last three games against the Ducks and play the teams directly above and below them only once each the rest of the way.
All that was on their minds when they took the ice Monday, defenseman Drew Doughty said.
“We knew we needed to catch up to them, and we wanted to start that off by winning tonight,” he said.
Still, the Kings didn’t start well, with a Dan Hamhuis goal early in the second period giving Vancouver a lead. But Doughty and Anze Kopitar erased that later in the period with goals less than two minutes apart.
It was the third power-play goal in two games for the Kings and the 20th goal this season for Kopitar, who has had 20 goals or more in a season eight times. He also had two assists, finishing with three points for the fourth time this season.
“Obviously, the power play has been scoring a lot lately so we’ve been happy with that, but our penalty kills have been something that we’ve been a little concerned that we haven’t been where we need to be. And tonight we were,” Doughty said after the Kings stopped Vancouver five times with the man advantage.
Carter and Vincent Lecavalier then put the game away with insurance goals 39 seconds apart in the final period before Carter’s milestone goal into an empty net closed the scoring with less than four minutes to play. Carter finished with nine shots, the most by a King this season.