LOS ANGELES — No matter how many goals the Los Angeles Kings end up with on a given night — and they hadn’t been scoring a lot lately — defence remains the top priority.
Jeff Carter scored twice in the third period to get reach the 300-goal mark after Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar scored less than 2 minutes apart in the second period, and the Kings beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 Monday night.
“We always play good defensive hockey. I mean, it’s not our team motto, but it’s something we’re known for,” Doughty said. “We take a lot of pride in playing good defence, and we always have good goaltending. That’s how you win hockey games.”
Carter and Vincent Lecavalier scored 39 seconds apart midway through the third, then Carter added an empty-netter to reach his milestone. The Kings scored more than two goals for only the second time in their last 11 games.
Jonathan Quick made 21 saves to help Los Angeles climb within a point of Pacific Division-leading Anaheim, which lost 2-1 to Washington in a shootout. The Kings led the Ducks by 16 points on Jan. 20, but fell out of first place with a 3-2 loss to them on Saturday at Staples Center.
“It was a pretty heartbreaking loss against the Ducks,” Doughty said. “We wanted that win and they wanted to be at the top of our division. So we knew we needed to catch up to them, and we wanted to start that off by winning tonight.”
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, the franchise’s career leader in games played, was back in Vancouver getting re-evaluated after leaving Saturday night’s 4-2 win at San Jose because of an upper-body injury. So twin brother Daniel had to go it alone, and the Kings were able to bottle him up.
Daniel Sedin, one of two Canucks to play in all 65 games, failed to get a shot on net for the first time this season. That leaves Montreal left wing Max Pacioretty as the only player in the league to get at least one in each of his team’s games.
“Obviously, (the Sedins are) pretty dangerous when they’re together and they’re a big part of that team, so I guess that made it a little easier on us tonight,” Carter said.
Doughty tied it 1-all at 10:07 of the second with his 13th goal, on a wrist shot from the left circle that trickled through Miller’s pads and across the goal line.
“I thought it was going to be in front of me the way it hit me, and it just went straight down towards the top of my pad,” Miller said. “As I was putting my arm in, I must have knocked it. It’s frustrating, I thought I set it up pretty well, where he couldn’t get it over me.”
Kopitar gave the Kings the lead at 12:06 of the period, beating Miller high to the glove side with a wrist shot from the right circle while teammate Tanner Pearson was screening him in front of the crease.
Carter added an insurance goal with 8:21 remaining, beating Miller to the glove side with a short wrist shot from the right circle. Lecavalier capped the scoring moments later with a 40-foot slap shot that again trickled through Miller’s pads.
“It’s frustrating,” Miller said. “Two of the shots hit me hard and I collapsed and lost control and knocked them both in. Pucks kind of went through me instead of around me. I can do more and need to be better.”
It was the second goal in two games for Hamhuis after he had failed to get one in his first 40 games. Last season, the 12-year veteran didn’t score a goal in his first 58 games before ending the drought in his final game of the campaign.
NOTES: Defenceman Chris Tanev, who leads Vancouver with 156 blocked shots, also had an upper-body injury in that game and was scratched as well. … The Kings honoured former centre Jimmy Carson before the game during their third and final “Legends Night” of the season. Carson scored 55 goals in 1987-88, an NHL record for American-born players that still stands. So does his franchise-record five hat tricks that season. … Kings LW Milan Lucic, born in Vancouver, has two goals and five assists in 12 regular-season games against the Canucks. He had two goals and an assist against them for Boston in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, which the Bruins won in seven games.