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Kings' postseason hopes end with Jackets' sweep

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Andy Murray pulled out all the stops to keep his Los Angeles Kings alive in the playoff hunt, and that cost his team a point. But it was a moot point once the game ended.

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Andrew Cassels scored an empty-net goal with 48 seconds left in overtime as the Columbus Blue Jackets ended the Kings' postseason hopes with a 2-1 victory Tuesday night.

"You've got to fight to the end, and that's how we did it,'' Kings center Brad Chartrand said. "There's a lot of pride in this room. There was not one guy going through the motions.''

Especially Murray. In a desperate attempt to stave off

elimination, he pulled goalie Cristobal Huet in overtime to get a

5-on-4 advantage after Columbus' killed off a high-sticking penalty

against Jamie Allison.

"Their bench was upset that we were pulling our goalie, but I

don't think they understood the circumstances,'' Murray said.

"What do we say to our fans if we don't give our last-gasp effort?

That's what our team is all about.''

The move backfired, as Cassels hit the empty net from center ice. Los Angeles needed two points to stay alive in the race, but instead lost their guaranteed point by allowing an empty-net goal in overtime.

"I was a little surprised they pulled the goalie, but I guess they needed the two points,'' Cassels said. "One of their guys jumped me at the red line and I didn't want to make a turnover, so I just threw it toward the net and fortunately it went in.''

Jaroslav Spacek scored on a power play early in the third period to pull the Blue Jackets into a 1-1 tie.

The Kings were swept in a season series of four or more games for the 15th time in franchise history, but only the third time in 22 seasons. Los Angeles totaled only five goals against a defense that has surrendered 242 goals -- the second-most in the league to Atlanta.

"This was a team we should beat,'' Kings defenseman Aaron Miller said. "We're just not a team that can win the close games right now.''

It was only the second time that Columbus won a game after trailing through two periods (2-29-2) this season. Rarely used Jean-Francois Labbe made 33 saves, helping Columbus end an eight-game road losing streak.

Jaroslav Modry scored a power-play goal for the Kings, who will

miss the playoffs for the first time in Murray's four seasons as

coach.

"There are no excuses. We're out of the playoffs,'' defenseman Aaron Miller said. "We had to go for the two to stay alive. One didn't do us any good.''

Huet stopped 21 shots in his fourth career start, including a penalty shot by Andrej Nedorost at 16:09 of the second period after the Columbus center was taken down from behind by Modry on a breakaway. But Spacek tied it with 17:17 left in regulation.

Labbe made his fourth start of this season. Marc Denis, who

started Columbus' other 72 games, was benched Sunday after giving

up four goals on 16 shots at Anaheim.

"When you've only started four times, you have to take

advantage of every opportunity you get,'' Labbe said. "It was nice

to get some playing time in last night to get in a groove. We were

solid in our own end and our penalty killing was unbelievable.''

Labbe stopped Los Angeles' first 16 shots before Modry scored a

power-play goal at 8:06 of the second period. Modry's 13th goal

matched the total he had in 174 games spanning his previous four

seasons.

Modry scored the 44th goal by a Kings defenseman, the most in

the league, while Duvie Westcutt was serving a holding penalty. Los

Angeles was 0-for-18 on the power play in their previous four games

against the Blue Jackets, after going 8-13 in a three-game span

against them.

Game notes
Dallas won all six meetings against the Kings in 1988-89, and Vancouver was 4-0 in 1994-95. ... The only other time the Blue Jackets won a game they trailed after two periods was Nov. 3, when

they beat Buffalo 3-2 after trailing 2-1. ... Even if Denis played in Columbus' remaining six games, he would fall one shy of the NHL record for games played by a goalie, set by Grant Fuhr in 1996-97 with St. Louis. But Denis can still break the single-season league record for minutes played, which Martin Brodeur set in 1995-96 with New Jersey. ... The Blue Jackets have gone scoreless in the first period in five straight games since March 15 -- when they did all their scoring on their first 12 shots in a 5-0 win over Minnesota.