Game 31; 20-7-4
MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens had entered Tuesday night’s contest with a 9-0-1 record in their last 10, winners of five straight, have not lost to their opponents since 2003 and only losing to them once on home ice since meeting them in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. The Habs were the hottest team in hockey going into Tuesday evening. The only problem was that someone forgot to tell all this to the Los Angeles Kings.
While the Kings did hope to extend their winning streak to four games, fans certainly didn’t anticipate what was to happen at the Bell Centre.
In their biggest offensive output in addition to their most lopsided win of the year, the Kings entered Montreal and spanked the Canadiens, chasing Canadian Olympic hopeful Carey Price from the net and even driving Habs fans to the exits earlier than expected – all this en route to a convincing 6-0 victory.
While goaltending loses its appeal in any lopsided game, the play of rookie Martin Jones was certainly an exception, especially in the early going.
While the end result was a rout, this game was very close in the opening period. In fact, the Canadiens had a plethora of chances in the first few minutes only to be turned away by Martin Jones each time. Personally, I was on the edge of my seat for much of the Montreal pressure but was mesmerized by the play of the Kings’ rookie netminder keeping the game scoreless.
It was at the 7:03 mark, however, that Los Angeles was able to answer. With Anze Kopitar finding himself with a quality scoring chance, he was stopped by Carey Price only to give up a juicy rebound to a streaking Jordan Nolan who scored his fourth to put the Kings out in front early. Willie Mitchell had the other assist. But despite trailing, the Canadiens didn’t relinquish much momentum as they continued to press, firing 17 shots against Jones in the first – but no results.
Just before the period was out (12 seconds left to be exact), Mike Richards won the faceoff for the Kings where it went to Kyle Clifford and then to Anze Kopitar who one-timed his ninth past Price to give Los Angeles a two-goal lead heading into the first intermission.
After one period in Montreal, Martin Jones already faced more shots than he did the entire night against the Islanders on Saturday. But he was able to get a break in the second as the Kings took control firing 13 shots on the Habs goal while Montreal was limited to just three.
When the middle frame got under way, Los Angeles wasted little time extending their lead. On a goal that even I admit should not have counted as Carey Price was interfered with, Alec Martinez scored his first of the year 1:45 into the period to put the Kings out in front 3-0. Three years earlier, Martinez had his NHL debut at the Bell Centre and here he is scoring his first in the same building he kicked off his career. Tyler Toffoli picked up an assist along with Kyle Clifford with his second helper of the evening. But the Kings were far from done.
Less than four minutes later, Tyler Toffoli added to his assist by flipping his eighth up and over Carey Price to put the road team up by four and silencing the Bell Centre more so. That also spelled the end of Price’s night who allowed four goals on 16 shots. Toffoli’s goal also marked the first time this season the Canadiens had allowed more than three goals in a game.
Peter Budaj came on in relief of Price but fared little better.
With so much working for the Kings not only on Tuesday but over the last month, the one area they have had a difficult time with is the power play. That is until the 8:14 mark of the second when Jake Muzzin made the most of his team’s man-advantage firing his second past Budaj to put the Kings out in front 5-0. Jarret Stoll and Slava Voynov picked up the assists.
Then, for good measure, Justin Williams backhanded his 11th past a down-and-out Budaj late in the period to put the Kings up by six.
While the Canadiens did outshot Los Angeles 11-5 in the third, Martin Jones regained his first-period form by turning away every shot he faced. In total, Jones made 31 saves to earn his second-straight shutout in just his third-career game, earning, to no one’s surprise, the game’s first star honours.
Up front, the silver-and-black had plenty of game-changers as six different Kings recorded multi-point nights en route to the win. Willie Mitchell led the way with a +4 while Alec Martinez followed right behind with a +3 rating.
As this game was shown on TSN in Canada, the storyline heading into this tilt was the battle of two Canadian Olympic hopefuls on defense: Drew Doughty versus Montreal’s PK Subban and while Los Angeles’s No. 8 didn’t find himself on the scoresheet, he did pick up a +2 rating while delivering a pair of hits.
Overall, the Kings had a night where virtually nothing went wrong and considering their lack of success not only against the Canadiens in Montreal but overall, this victory is certainly a big boost in collective confidence. Of course, now that they’ve won four-in-a-row and earned points in 15 of their last 16, the Kings didn’t exactly lack any confidence before Tuesday.
As uplifting as a win like this is, the Kings won’t get to rest too much as they are in Toronto on Wednesday to take on the injury-riddled Maple Leafs.