VANCOUVER - The Los Angeles Kings served noticed they have the Vancouver Canucks in their sights.
Jonathan Quick made 19 saves for his fifth shutout of the season, and Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar each had a goal and an assist Thursday as the Kings defeated the Canucks 4-0.
Los Angeles improved to 3-0-0 against the Canucks this season with two meetings still to come, and jumped over Winnipeg into the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference after the Jets dropped a 4-2 decision to the Florida Panthers.
The Canucks sit second in the Pacific Division, but both the Kings and Calgary Flames are nipping at their heels just a point back.
"The closer you get to playoffs the more you want to be in it," said Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty. "We're not going to accept anything but to be in it and right now Vancouver is one of those teams in our way, second in the division, and we still have a really good shot at being in that spot."
Tyler Toffoli and Marian Gaborik, into an empty net, also scored for Los Angeles (33-21-13), which has won four of five and 12 of 16 overall to rocket up the standings after sitting 13th in the conference in early February.
"We circle these ones that are division games, especially since we're on the bubble," said Williams. "These are huge games. Vancouver is in our way if we want to try to make the playoffs, and they still are."
A big reason for the Kings' turnaround has been their play on the road. The defending Stanley Cup champions were 5-12-6 away from home as of Feb. 5, but are 7-2-0 since.
"I think the games just got more important," said Doughty, whose team plays nine of its last 15 on the road. "I think the guys were sick of talking about why we were doing so bad on the road so we decided to turn it around and start winning some."
Eddie Lack made 16 saves for Vancouver (38-25-4), which generated very little against Quick after the first period.
"They showed why they win the Cups," said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins. "They had a lot of patience, they had a lot of presence."
Toffoli scored on the power play — his 20th of the season — in the first period to put his team up 1-0, and the Kings doubled their lead at 3:59 of the second thanks to a bad change and some suspect defensive zone coverage. Los Angeles defenceman Brayden McNabb took the puck down the boards unchallenged and found a wide-open Williams, who had circled the Vancouver net and was left all alone to tap his 17th of the season past a helpless Lack.
"I thought we lost the goaltending (battle), I thought we lost special teams, and that's two huge parts of our game. Didn't come up in those two areas," said Lack. "When you give them two or three it's going to be hard to come back."
It marked the fifth time in the last six games the Canucks have found themselves down 2-0 and the Kings put the game out of reach 25 seconds into the third when Kopitar intercepted a poor clearing attempt by Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis and beat Lack shortside for his 14th of the season.
The Kings nursed that advantage the rest of the way, keeping the hosts off the shot clock in the period until Quick, who picked up the 36th shutout of his career, snagged Daniel Sedin's effort with 9:35 left before Gaborik scored his 21st into an empty net.
"I want to keep climbing," said Williams. "It's been a long season so far and we've turned it around here a little bit, but we know there's a long way to go, a lot of games left, and a lot can happen and we're going to keep trending in the right direction."
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