The results may not have mattered but the Vancouver Canucks simply weren’t going to give up on Thursday night.
Down 2-0 to the L.A. Kings heading into the third period, the Canucks rallied with a pair of goals to force overtime, then put away the game winner with 29.7 seconds left in the extra frame.
Vancouver has battled hard all year, said Brock Boeser, and that wasn’t about to change in the team’s final home game of the season.
“For us to come and play a team that’s in the playoffs, we take a lot of pride in that. And it still meant a lot to a lot of us and just to show what our team’s capable of,” said the right-winger who scored twice in the 3-2 victory, including the game winner in overtime.
“It’s pretty amazing where we are right now compared to where we were at the beginning of the year and I think we all talked about that a lot. And we take a lot of pride in that.”
The Canucks struggled through the first third of the season and lingered near the bottom of the standings with an 8-15-2 record when head coach Travis Green was fired at the beginning of December.
Veteran NHL bench boss Bruce Boudreau took his place and the team has gone 32-15-9 since.
“I just haven’t seen any quit in them,” Boudreau said Thursday. “I mean, we’ve had a couple of bad games where we’ve had goals scored on us in the first period, and we haven’t looked very good, but those have been few and far between.
“And I just think these, this is a group of men that just keep pushing and pushing and pushing and eventually – it’s not going to be this year but in the very near future – they’re gonna push through and have a great season.”
The Canucks will close out their campaign Friday when they take on the Oilers in Edmonton.
The Kings will face the Oilers in the first round of the playoffs, with the schedule yet to be announced.
L.A. (44-27-11) dominated much of Thursday’s game, taking a 2-0 lead into the third period thanks to goals from Adrian Kempe and Gabriel Vilardi.
But the Canucks (40-30-11) rallied in the third, replying with goals from Boeser and Alex Chiasson.
“We got the result we wanted but the first two periods were maybe a little off from our side,” said forward Elias Pettersson. “But I think the third we played the way we want and it got us a win.”
Vancouver relied heavily on goalie Spencer Martin, who stopped 33 of 35 shots. Cal Petersen had 26 saves for L.A.
The Canucks pressed in the dying seconds of overtime, throwing several shots at Petersen before Boeser collected his own rebound at the top of the crease and fired it in for his 23rd goal of the season.
Martin made a pair of dazzling saves about two minutes into overtime, first stymying Blake Lizotte on a two-on-one, then scooping up a backhanded shot from Andreas Athanasiou just moments later.
Chiasson put away the equalizer 14:31 into the final frame, backhanding in a bouncing rebound from a Quinn Hughes shot. The puck appeared to hit the stick of L.A. defenceman Troy Stecher before sailing up and over Petersen into the back of the net.
A power-play goal finally got the Canucks on the board after Carl Grundstrom was called for hooking midway through the third.
Boeser fired a one-timer from the top of the slot 6:52 into the frame, cutting the deficit to 2-1. Pettersson registered an assist on the play for his 67th point of the season, a new career high.
The Kings took a 2-0 lead late in the second after Kempe beat defenceman Travis Dermott in a foot race to the Vancouver net and slid a shot under Martin’s pad.
The goal was Kempe’s 35th of the season.
Vilardi opened the scoring 15:08 into the second with a shot from above the faceoff circle that sailed through traffic and beat Martin on his glove side.
L.A. dominated the game even before finding the back of the net, outshooting the home side 23-8 halfway through the second period.
Martin kept Vancouver in the game with a series of solid saves, even after he lost his stick for an extended period. The lumber was knocked out of his hand midway through the second when a blast from Athanasiou went off the shaft, sending the stick flying into the corner.
The Canucks goalie also weathered six minutes of penalty time in the first.
L.A. was 0-for-4 with the man advantage Thursday while Vancouver went 1-for-2.
The Canucks announced their team awards Thursday, with MVP honours going to all-star goalie Thatcher Demko. Demko missed a second game with an undisclosed injury ... Kings forward Dustin Brown wore the ‘C’ usually reserved for Adrian Kempe after announcing earlier on Thursday that he will retire at the end of L.A.’s playoff run.