The Vancouver Canucks have known for months that the math was against them.
Getting knocked out of playoff contention on Sunday still stung.
“We knew quite a bit a couple of games ago, it wasn’t realistic to do it,” star center Elias Pettersson said after the Canucks lost a 4-1 decision to the LA Kings.
While LA sealed their postseason spot with the win, it was the Winnipeg Jets’ 6-1 loss over the New Jersey Devils that ultimately snuffed out any lingering hopes of Vancouver making a late playoff run.
The Canucks (34-25-7) have now missed the playoffs for three straight years and seven of the past eight NHL seasons.
The slump has left not only the players but the staff hungry, head coach Rick Tocchet said.
“I want to win every game,” he said. “It sucks, four months off. But like I said, we’ve got some really good players here who want to win. And they’re going to lead the charge for us this summer.”
Meanwhile, Kings coach Todd McLellan said he can “breathe a bit” knowing LA (45-22-10) has clinched its playoff spot.
Alex Iafallo led LA with two goals, while Arthur Kaliyev and Blake Lizotte each scored and assisted. Anze Kopitar contributed a couple of helpers for the Kings, who were coming off a 3-1 win over the Seattle Kraken on Saturday.
Brock Boeser scored the only goal for the Canucks (34-35-7) early in the first period and Thatcher Demko stopped 21 of 23 shots.
LA took a 2-1 lead at 3:25 of the second period when Iafallo scored his second goal of the night, and 14th of the season, on a power play.
Viktor Arvidsson hit the post and the rebound fell into traffic in front of the Vancouver net, where Iafallo pushed it to give the visitors the lead.
LA went 1 for 2 with the man advantage on Sunday and Vancouver went 0 for 4.
CLOCK | Iafallo scores a couple of goals in Vancouver:
Once the Kings took the lead, the Canucks didn’t compete as tough, Vancouver center JT Miller said.
“We know that that team is very comfortable in that situation. That’s how they should play, it’s 2-1 hockey, a great playoff team, it wasn’t going to be easy,” he said.
“We had good looks, yes, but it feels a little too soft right now. I don’t know. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re that hard to play.”
The Canucks pulled Demko with 2:31 remaining on the game clock in favor of an additional attacker, but were unable to return to the game.
Instead, Lizotte collected a pass from Kaliyev and sent an easy shot into the empty net with 49 seconds to go.
Vancouver had an excellent chance to tie the game at 2-2 earlier in the final frame when Arvidsson was penalized for cut.
Sunday marked Vancouver’s third straight loss (0-1-2) after a run that saw them win five of six outings.
“I know everyone here is trying their best,” defenseman Quinn Hughes said. “And I think we’ve played pretty well since the All-Star break and we’ve made some progress in certain areas, but at the same time, we’re not quite there yet.
“So we’re doing our best here and a lot of guys are doing the best they can and it just is what it is.”