The cool and composed Los Angeles Kings were too much for the Habs at Centre Bell Thursday night. They ran a well-oiled offense while goalie Jonathan Quick stopped every shot to win 3-0 against the Montreal Canadiens.
While Montreal continued their woes prior to the Winter Classic, the Kings wished that they could end strongly after being on the road for so long. They have gone 7-0-2 in their last nine and got good news with Quick coming back into the net. For former Boston Bruins Milan Lucic, it was his first time back in Montreal since being the hated Boston Forward that had plenty to be happy in his return.
His presence back in Montreal doesn’t make things better for the Habs who have lost five of their last six with Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher still out. Goaltender Mike Condon was in need of a break and it clearly had them suffering without him. Though he comes back tonight, he would see plenty of action and energy from a strong Los Angeles squad.
The Kings got to work on Condon early with their first line getting time on ice just as the boos followed for Lucic. Though they didn’t strike early, Condon was well aware of their movements and hoped that his offense could play on Quick. He dealt with Montreal’s top shooters with captain Max Pacioretty trying to put his team ahead as quickly as possible. His pair of scoring chances were denied by the Kings netminder as well as from his teammate Brian Flynn.
The two got the ball rolling where after fighting off a penalty before getting a power play, the Habs launched a lengthy attack on Quick. Dale Wiese led the way with five shots in the Kings end with P.K. Subban and Lars Eller getting a pair. By the time the period came to a close, Montreal had recorded 18 shots on goal showing that they were on fire looking to end their problems with a new strategy.
Montreal was still on point at the start of the second period where their efforts to get one behind Quick was getting closer and closer. Second line center Alex Galchenyuk stormed towards the Kings net firing a couple of shots but always seeing the puck end up in the glove of Quick who had his 26th save through the midway mark.
The Kings were rewarded with another power play where the opportunities were alive and well for Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty looking to be first to score for Los Angeles. After the expiration of the man advantage Doughty would get one behind Condon on a drive from the far end giving him his 5th of the season. He had help from Tyler Toffoli who worked the puck up the slot before finding the defenseman open for a shot.
Doughty helped make it 2-0 on a beautiful show of communication between himself and Kopitar. The forward stood near the net where he scored his ninth on a wrister while notching his fourth consecutive point. With the goals coming 95 seconds apart, it left Montreal needing to answer back with strength.
Torrey Mitchell nearly got one on Quick but he was stunned at the movement of the Kings goaltender as he made the stop even after stopping a wrap around try. It had the Canadiens wondering what they were going to have to do in order to top the Kings and their dominance through 40 minutes.
Pacioretty and the Canadiens nearly ended their scoreless time on ice with a shot that bounced up high and into the Kings crease. In a fast response, Quick swept it away just inches before it was to cross over the goal line. Despite the frustration, it didn’t stop them from pressuring Quick. He clearly enjoyed the offensive rushes from Montreal as he was on his game to stop 40 shots to the net.
The shots kept coming inside the Kings zone despite that Los Angeles had only managed to take three shots through 15 minutes of the third. It looked to become a defensive stance for them snuffing out whatever Montreal wanted to bring to the ice. They went for the empty net with 3:46 left on the clock to give 6 on 4 against Los Angeles. They couldn’t get any clear lines to shoot the puck and ended up watching Marian Gaborik score in the empty net for his seventh of the season.
Quick was just 49 seconds from a solid finish to the game and ultimately earned it as the horn sounded. He earned his second shutout of the season stopping 45 shots at him for his 17th win. It was the 39th career blanking as the Kings goalie and the first he ever had against the Canadiens. “He just came up with the big saves,” said Drew Doughty to Fox Sports West. “He stood on his head and played well for us.” Quick stands one away from tying for the most shutouts by an American goalie.
With the Kings having their number one goaltender at 100 percent, they will hope that he can keep the solid goaltending in net when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs ending a two-week road trip on Saturday.