Even the most fervent of fans had to realize that this win streak of the Canadiens could not go on forever. With a 82 game season it is difficult to maintain the utmost level of dedication and enthusiasm for players, so extended win streaks are few and far between. Montreal has been on a good run with 9-0-1 record in their last 10 games. Actually, the two teams in this contest were going through hot streaks. Los Angeles, who is 4th in the Western Division, was coming in 5-0-1 in their last 6 games on the road.
The two teams are having similar seasons, actually with both featuring strong goaltending and not giving up many goals. Despite the injury to their number one goaltender Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles was carrying on with Ben Scrivens and rookie Martin Jones without missing a beat. 23-year-old Martin Jones got the start, which was only the 3rd game of his NHL career. He was coming off a 16 save shutout against the Florida Panthers.
It seemed like everything was working in Montreal’s favour with their strong play of late, the fact that Carey Price was a perfect 3-0 versus the Kings and that the last time the Los Angeles Kings won in Montreal was December 11, 1999.
Good news for Montreal came before the game when Andrei Markov’s knee which he seemed to have injured in the previous game against Buffalo was deemed alright and he would be in the line-up. Montreal would need the wily veteran defenseman as they were starting another busy period with 4 games in 6 nights. Coach Michel Therrien made a few line-up adjustments with Alex Galchenyuk now playing on the left side with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta, Francis Bouillon was back in the line-up in the place of Douglas Murray beside Rafael Diaz and Lars Eller was centering Michael Bournival and Daniel Brière.
Early on Team Canada lock Drew Doughty gifted Montreal a power play a mere 0:38 into the game. Though they have cooled off lately, Montreal is 6th overall on the power play. The Kings are equally good on the penalty kill, however, sitting 5th overall in the NHL. Over the course of the 2 minute advantage Montreal peppered Jones with 7 shots and had a handful of great scoring chances. Jones withstood the test and made several sparkling saves. It is difficult to make an argument that something that happened in the first 3 minutes of the game was turning point, but Jones not allowing the Habs to take the early lead truly was.
Montreal had only given up 13 1st period goals so far this season, but the Kings managed 2 against them. Starting at 7:03 Jordan Nolan slotted home a rebound off a Willie Mitchell shot. Despite the fact that Los Angeles gave them a couple more power play opportunities in the 1st period Montreal could not solve the puzzle that was Martin Jones. He stopped all 17 of the 1st period shots directed his way.
Still it wasn’t too bad being only 1-0 down and then Daniel Brière put his team in trouble with a lazy play. With less than 30 seconds left in the period Brière iced the puck on a play that a veteran player should never commit. Especially one who is not contributing offensively. Sutter was able to put out his big guns in Mike Richards, Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Doughty and Jake Muzzin. Kopitar won the faceoff against Lars Eller and played it to Richards, who returned the puck to Kopitar. The big center did not waste any time releasing a precise shot that beat Price with only 0:13 left in the period. Goals late in periods are killers.
Making an argument for video replay or coachs’ challenges were the Kings’ 3rd and 4th goals. Both involved interference on Price. The final dagger in Montreal’s heart was an early goal in the 2nd period by Alec Martinez. The Kings took advantage of Alexei Emelin fumbling the puck and losing it in his skates. Kyle Clifford was in the crease right on top of Price not allowing him to move across the crease to stop puck. He even looked over his shoulder at the referee after the goal, a sure sign that someone is guilty of something. Giving up a 3rd goal against a team that has averaged around 2 goals against this season is not good. At 5:28 of the 2nd Price surrendered his last goal and once again had to deal with a Kings player practically in his lap. The refs called back neither and Los Angeles had a 4-0 lead. Really these 2 goals did not cause the Habs to lose but were two cases of obvious goaltender interference that were not called. Something the league needs to look at.
Price was replaced by Peter Budaj, in what would be his first minutes this season at the Bell Centre. In what was an attempt at a wake-up call (because none of the goals were Price’s fault) to his team, Therrien could not have been happy with their response. There was no push back. The Kings scored 2 more goals before the 2nd was over. He even tried mixing up lines to no avail. His team just had a bad night. It happens to everyone. No reason to worry. Worry should only happen if they lose their next 2 games.
Los Angeles showed iftself to be a prototypical Western team in that they are big, fast and forecheck aggressively. They are a deep team that really has embraced Coach Sutter’s system and play it to perfection. The only weakness they have is in the goal scoring department. If at the trade deadline they add one more scorer they really have to be considered a Cup contender.
The next game for Montreal is Thursday in Philadelphia against the Flyers.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Francis Charron and Kevin Pollack
Linesmen – Scott Cherrey and Mike Cvik
-Goals: 1st Period:
7:03: Los Angeles – Jordan Nolan assisted by Anze Kopitar and Willie Mitchell
19:47: Los Angeles – Anze Kopitar assisted by Mike Richards
1:45: Los Angeles – Alec Martinez assisted by Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Clifford
5:28: Los Angeles – Tyler Toffoli assisted by Kyle Clifford and Mike Richards
8:14: Los Angeles – (pp) Jake Muzzin assisted by Jarret Stoll and Slava Voynov
18:28: Los Angeles – Justin Williams assisted by Jarret Stoll
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 31
Los Angeles – 30
-3 Stars: 1) Martin Jones – Los Angeles
2) Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles
3) Jake Muzzin – Los Angeles
-Final Score: Montreal – 0
Los Angeles – 6