Coming out of the Olympic break, the Los Angeles Kings have been red hot. On Monday, March 3, 2014 the song remained the same. The Kings played a great uptempo style, and earned a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in front of a sellout crowd at Staples center in downtown Los Angeles.
It was the Kings fifth straight win.
As the game began, the home team was flying. The Kings were quicker, faster, and more in sync than the opponent. Crisp passing and hard skating tipped the momentum in favor of the Kings early on, and it didn't take long for the Kings hustle to pay off.
Taking a faceoff in the defensive zone, Anze Kopitar won the draw, and Justin Williams quickly carried the puck up the right wing boards and through the neutral zone. He got the puck to Tyler Toffoli as they both crossed the Canadiens' blueline. Kopitar drove hard down the slot, taking a Montreal defender with him, which left the backdoor open for defenseman jake Muzzin who had jumped up into the play. Toffoli's centering pass found Muzzin. Muzz found the back of the net to give the Kings a 1-0 lead just 1:54 into the first period. It looked like the Kings might turn this into a lopsided win.
As previously stated, the Kings were carrying the play and setting the tone. The only problem was, the score was still only 1-0. The one goal lead evaporated at the 14:45 mark. Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban had the puck in the Kings' zone against the right wing boards. The 2013 Norris trophy winner then launched a quick shot toward the net, which hit the skate of Kings' forward Jarret Stoll, and deflected into the Kings' net. The somewhat fluky goal tied the game at 1-1.
The first period ended with the game tied. Officially, both teams only had five shots on goal, but it was the Kings who clearly dominated the period.
The second period was a bit more evenly played. There were some good scoring chances, but no goals were scored.
Shots on goal for the period, favored Los Angeles 8-5.
The third period began with the outcome still hanging in the balance.
Special teams play is often the topic when players and coaches talk about the differences in big games. This game was a great example. With Brendan Gallagher in the penalty box for goaltender interference, the Kings went to work. Gaining possession in the offensive zone, it was the Anze Kopitar show. Kopi was the focal point as he worked in the high slot, and the Kings worked the puck around and through the outmanned Montreal defenders. The biscuit was finally worked back to Alec Martinez at the right point. Martinez gave it back to Kopi, and the Slovenian star's nifty backhand pass found Jeff Carter on the weak side. Carter hammered it home at 4:14 to put his team up 2-1.
Montreal pulled the goalie late in the game, but the Kings withstood the visiting team's frenetic attempts to tie the game, and held on for the 2-1 win.
Kings outshot Montreal 9-8 in the third, and 22-18 overall.
Said Kings' forward Justin Williams, "I think any game here late just has a little added incentive to it. Desperation is a big factor within hockey games and certainly a lot of teams are pushing for the playoffs, including us. We’ll be in that position. We’re going keep getting better."
With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching (3:00 pm ET, March 5), the Kings players are looking like they all want to stay.
Three Stars of the game:
1) Anze Kopitar - Kings
2) Justin Williams - Kings
3) David Desharnais - Montreal
Kings notes -
*This was Kings first home win over Montreal since March 8, 2013 (2-1 win)
*Justin Williams now has 5 pts in last four games.
*Anze Kopitar now has 9 pts in last six games.
*Jonathan Quick has only allowed 2 goals in his last three starts.
*Kings have outscored opponents 15-7 in five-game win streak.
*Kings begin a three-game Western Canada road trip on Thursday night in Winnipeg.
Kings forward line combinations:
Kings defense pairings:
Montreal forward line combinations: