Ryan Miller makes 36 saves, Canucks hang on to beat Kings

Henrik Sedin scored in the second period and the Vancouver Canucks edged the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

VANCOUVER — Ryan Miller had an easy time in the first period Wednesday night. The same can’t be said for the final 40 minutes.

Miller recorded 36 saves as the Vancouver Canucks edged the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in the first game for both teams following the NHL’s Christmas break.

He was unbeatable until late in the third period as the Kings outshot the Canucks 37-20 — including 31-8 over the final two periods.

"The first period was nice," said Miller. "We were above the puck. They didn’t have too much as far as odd-man rushes. There weren’t two-on-ones or three-on-twos. It was a clean game as far as that goes and that’s the kind of game you have to have to beat L.A."

The Canucks (15-18-3) earned only their second win in the past five games. The Kings (17-14-4 ) suffered their fourth loss in five games.

Loui Eriksson and Henrik Sedin scored for the Canucks, who converted one of three power-play opportunities while denying the Kings on two.

"It’s nice to come out here after the Christmas break and get the win," said Eriksson. "I thought we played pretty well. It’s a good team we were playing. Millsy made some great saves for us."

Tanner Pearson scored for L.A. Peter Budaj took the loss while stopping 18 shots. Vancouver’s goals came early in the first and second periods.

"You never want to get down that quick behind the eight-ball, and we just couldn’t bury that second one at the end of the game," said Pearson.

Eriksson opened the scoring on a power play 2:43 into the game as he skated the puck out of the corner and beat Budaj with a shot to the far side. The goal came after Bo Horvat, battling a Kings defender along the boards, gave a between-the-legs pass to Eriksson. With the goal, the Canucks ended the Kings’ consecutive penalty kills streak at 26.

Defenceman Jake Muzzin was off for high-sticking Eriksson at the time. L.A. had gone nine games without allowing a power-play goal. Heading into the game, Vancouver’s power play ranked second-last in the NHL with a 12.5 per cent success rate.

With the Kings forced to kill three penalties, including two committed by Nic Dowd, the Canucks outshot the visitors 12-6 in the first period.

"None of them were very good penalties, but we got through that all right and then they scored on the first shift (in the second period)," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. "We had a scoring chance and they come back and score and now you are chasing it. I thought we got stronger as the game went on, that’s for sure."

Henrik Sedin doubled Vancouver’s lead only 23 seconds into the second period as he deflected in Troy Stecher’s bouncing shot from the point.

The goal was the only one of a raggedy period in which the Kings outshot the Canucks 13-4.

Miller stood out as he stopped Trevor Lewis in close after a Vancouver giveaway at the blue line and robbed Dustin Brown on a one-timer off Anze Kopitar’s sharp-angled shot in the late going.

"It skipped under and hit the top of my laces on my skate," said Miller. "It hit so hard it could have gone in, it could have gone anywhere. I was kind of hoping it wasn’t behind me."

Pearson spoiled Miller’s shutout bid at 16:43 of the third period, depriving Miller of his first goose egg in more than a year.

His last shutout came against the Kings on Oct. 13, 2015. He has now gone 67 games without one.

"I think he’s one of the best in the league," said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins. "When he’s on, he’s on. He made some good saves and he was confident. When he came in, he handled everything clean."

Desjardins also praised defenceman Alex Edler, who delivered a strong effort upon his return to the lineup after missing 11 games with a broken finger.

"He made such a difference coming back," said Desjardins. "I don’t think we get the win without Edler coming in.

Notes: Kings winger Devin Setoguchi played in his 500th NHL game. Canucks winger Alex Burrows is one game away from 800 for his career. L.A. defenceman Drew Doughty needs one more game for 200 consecutive games played. He has not missed a game since 2013-14.

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