As the speculation went, the Canadiens -- maybe, just maybe -- had their game figured out. They went into tonight’s tilt on the back of a convincing 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers, where they got contributions from all over their lineup. Their last meeting with the Kings was still fresh in their minds, a 5-1 loss just a week ago, marked by a dramatic collapse by the Canadiens defence in the third period.
So maybe the Canadiens had things figured out. And maybe they wanted a little revenge on the Kings for that drubbing last week.
Well. About that.
This game could have been that. It could have been a goal bonanza for the Canadiens. Statistically, the ice should have tilted in Montreal’s favor.
But that little thing called luck? Not on Montreal’s side. (Or, to use numbers? Montreal’s PDO is a worst-in-the-league 93.04.)
The Canadiens put together a strong first period, doubling the Kings up on shots (16 to the Kings’ eight), and taking advantage of some sloppy play from the Kings in their own zone to get in nice and close with Jonathan Quick.
Quick practically stood on his head for this team, and as the clock ticked down in the first, the general feeling was “well, at least it’s 0-0”.
Enter Adrian Kempe.
The Canadiens failed to clear the puck out of their zone with just around a minute left to go. Derek Forbort shot the puck in, what should have been a harmless play for the Canadiens. An easy stop for Carey Price, a whistle, and a chance for the Canadiens to run out the clock on the period. But Adrian Kempe was in the right place at the right time and tipped in Forbort’s shot.
I looked away from the game for a few seconds to write down my observations on Kempe’s goal, and the Kings decided they weren’t done yet. Only 11 seconds after Kempe’s tally, Tyler Toffoli shocked the Bell Centre by intercepting a puck that Montreal had meant to ring up the boards. Toffoli is seemingly unmarked by any Montreal player and essentially gets to walk up to Price to take his shot.
Things didn’t improve much for the Canadiens from there. Despite receiving four power plays throughout the game (five, if you count one that was negated by a Montreal penalty), and despite putting a huge amount of pressure on the Kings, the Canadiens failed time and again to convert.
Some of it was luck: whiffed pucks in the slot, missed passes, uncharacteristic turnovers. But a lot of it was Jonathan Quick. Even as the Canadiens pressed harder in the second and third, Quick played a composed, efficient game which left little room for doubt on who the ultimate victor would be.
Anze Kopitar collected his team-leading seventh goal of the season off of a turnover in the neutral zone. Left essentially alone for most of the play with only Jordie Benn covering him, Kopitar skated in and elected to keep the puck for himself rather than pass to Dustin Brown, coming up on his right side. It was the correct choice, because Kopitar’s laser of a shot easily went in over Price’s shoulder.
And just for good measure, why not let a rookie get a goal? That’s right, Kurtis MacDermid, who’s been a healthy scratch for a good number of games, drew back into the lineup after a strong performance in Ottawa. He had over 13 minutes of ice time, played a generally unnoticeable game, and took one shot on goal back near the blue line. That shot just happened to deflect up off a Montreal stick and in behind Carey Price.
It’s not the prettiest of goals, but for the big defender who’s counted on more for his physicality than for his offense? Well, no complaints here. MacDermid couldn’t stop smiling afterwards. For a team that’s really been showing that they’ve found their love for playing hockey again, this was undoubtedly a great sight.
A strong penalty kill (Montreal took eleven shots, including four high danger shots, while on the man advantage), excellent defensive work up and down the lineup, and an outstanding performance from Jonathan Quick sealed this game up for the Kings. Quick, who’s come away a winner in all of his other big milestone games, walked away from career game #500 with a win, and his 46th career shut-out.