Quinton Byfield scored two goals and an assist, Cam Talbot stopped 24 shots and the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Montreal club 4-0 on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
The Canadian also lost 4-0 in Los Angeles on November 25th, but was never really in the game. He had only had one shot on goal in the first half, a long save from Mike Matheson.
This time the Habs started the game strong, but lacked opportunism. Once they fell behind, they found it increasingly difficult to find openings in the Kings’ airtight 1-3-1 neutral zone system.
“I think we played better,” coach Martin St-Louis said, comparing his team’s two performances against the Kings this season. But there are similarities. I didn’t hate our first two stays in Los Angeles. I really enjoyed our first third tonight, but unfortunately we lost 2-0. We deserved better in the first half.”
The Kings broke an NHL record by winning their first 11 road games to start the season. The Buffalo Sabers set the old mark of 10 in the 2006-07 season.
“Normally we prefer to be humble about our successes and talk about the next game, but I think this success shows how well this group is playing,” Kings head coach Todd McLellan said.
“I’m proud of the group. The boys have done something special, but it’s only December 7 and there’s still a lot to play for,” he added.
Samuel Montembeault made 38 saves in front of the Canadian net (11-12-2). It was the first time in 21 games that a Habs goalie started for the second straight season.
Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist, while Trevor Moore also scored for the Kings (16-4-3). Anze Kopitar had three assists and Kevin Fiala had two.
Forward Michael Pezzetta was added to the Canadian’s lineup in place of Joel Armia. The latter benefited from a day of treatment on Wednesday, but the team did not provide any information as to whether Armia’s withdrawal was related to an injury.
The Canadian will play twice this weekend. He will first visit the Buffalo Sabers on Saturday before hosting the Nashville Predators on Sunday.
An impenetrable kingdom
The Kings took control of the game by scoring two goals in the first period.
Doughty made a nice push down the left wing and showed patience before surprising Montembeault at 8:13.
Byfield also scored with a great individual effort at 17:46. The hulking winger mocked defender Kaiden Guhle’s marking and then saw Montembeault take the bait on his feint. All he had to do was push the puck into an empty net.
On the other side of the ice, the Canadian didn’t have a bad phase, but couldn’t take advantage of his chances.
“They have good players and play a good system,” Montembeault said. When they had chances, they took advantage of them.
Sean Monahan hit the post on a power play, then Juraj Slafkovsky missed the open goal after a cross-ice pass from Nick Suzuki.
Suzuki also hit the post at the start of the second period after a great individual shot from Slafkovsky.
The Canadian spent a lot of time in the Kings zone in the middle phase, but Talbot didn’t really need to stand out.
Byfield dealt the Canadian a major blow by scoring his second goal of the game on a power play with 1:45 left in the second period. Fiala’s stick broke as he attempted a shot. The puck skidded toward the net and Kopitar passed it to Byfield, who was able to shoot into a gaping cage.
The Kings managed to stifle the Canadian in the third period, limiting him to four shots on goal.
“Once you go behind against a team like them, it’s hard to get out of their trap,” Suzuki said. They made it difficult for us to attempt a comeback.”
Moore scored on a breakaway at 7:58.
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