Kings @ Canadiens Recap: Luck Be A (Fickle) Lady
The hockey gods apparently reside in Montreal.
Let me preface this recap by saying that I'm not neutral. Clearly I root for the Kings but I have a lot of Boston friends so my perception of the Montreal Canadiens may be colored, although to be fair, they've more than earned their reputation.
The Habs are Not Good. Not like super bad, but nowhere near actual contender status and most certainly nowhere close to as good as their record indicates. They're a mediocre possession team and while they've gotten slightly better this year with more emphasis on possession, they're still below 50% and getting worse.
The hockey gods have a cruel sense of humor. We know that with the nine year rebuild going on in northern Alberta and the Buffalo Sabres winning a lot of games, including sweeping a home and home against the Habs. Luck is a precipitous thing that comes and goes as it pleases and, well, last night, it was not on the Los Angeles Kings' side.
First period visual recap:
Montreal scored on their third shot on goal of after spending almost 8 minutes in their own zone before a stupid Drew Doughty penalty. It was a flukey bounce off a defender's stick three seconds into the PK.
With 5 seconds left in the period, Jeff Carter made a clean, legal check on a Hab who had the puck, which somehow constituted either boarding or interference or both and Kozari (a notably terrible referee) decided that was worthy of a penalty, which was completely and utterly ridiculous.
The Kings out-attempted the Canadiens nearly three-to-one in the first period with 29 attempts for and only 10 against.
Ugh. Commence drinking.
So cut to the second period, Carter in the box, the puck hits Brayden McNabb's stick and deflects in past a helpless Martin Jones. That, by the way, was Montreal's fifth shot on goal.
A few minutes later, because not enough defensemen were getting in on this action, Matt Greene's attempt to block a shot deflected off his stick and between Jones's legs.
Despite ramping up the pressure on Carey Price that period, he stood tall against what wasn't blocked. Kings ended the second still down 3-0 but led in shots on goal 28-11 and shot attempts with 61. They had an astonishing 32 attempts in 20 minutes of play. Huzzah for score effects!
By spending the majority of the opening minutes in the Habs' zone in the third period, the Kings were finally rewarded when Jake Muzzin broke the shutout. Good job, Eyebrows! It was a hard working goal with some nice cycling and a multilayered screen set up in front of Price. Shots were 33-12 at this point but who's counting?
Habs made it 4-1 halfway into the period because life isn't fair. Kings got caught down low and Greene was left alone in the offensive zone making it the first fairly earned goal for the Habs.
Not to be outdone by his fuzzy-facial-haired defense partner, Doughty scored for the Kings just a few minutes later. Back within 2! Sadly, not for long.
The Habs were the recipient, of wait for it, another lucky bounce! Tyler Toffoli bobbled a pass in his own zone, attempted to knock the puck out to force off sides but instead the puck hits a skate at the blue line (dude had no idea it was there, it wasn't an intentional block) and there was little chance for Jones to stop that.
The sixth and final goal was... you guessed it... Yet another fortuitous bounce. It was a simple pass into the Kings' zone but Muzzin fell down and Doughty was unable to handle the literal bouncing puck. Gross.
Good things happen when you work for your bounces. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for the Kings this time. They were spurned by a fickle hand of fate that provides an interesting character test for the boys.
And it's not like the Kings were poorly positioned on most of the goals or they got caught running around in their own zone. Except for one goal, the Kings were by far the better, more dominant team all night. A decent, positionally sound goalie made routine saves he should have but was not the reason the Kings lost.
Kings need to be better in the home plate area and they'll beat bad teams like Buffalo and Montreal rather handily.
(s/t war-on-ice for the images)
Four shots on goal in the third period from the home plate area is not great. The Habs did virtually everything they could to lose the game including taking multiple penalties (5) and giving up copious amounts of zone time. Overall, the visitors attempted 92 (!!) shots, more than double the home team's 41 attempts. The final CF% ended up 69% to 31%.
Just remember the frustration of this regular season December game when the Kings are lifting the Cup again in June.