Los Angeles Kings @ Montreal Canadiens, Recap: Meet the Immovable Object

Yeah, the goalie was tough to beat, but Montreal’s defense proved surprisingly formidable too.

We were hoping the Los Angeles Kings could overcome the Montreal Canadiens’ natural goaltending advantage by just overwhelming them with offensive pressure and shots. It didn’t happen that way, as LA lost 4-1 to snap their three-game winning streak.

[Box Score]

Things kicked off with a short tribute to the first goaltending Hall of Famer and retired number in the history of the Kings. Of course, this was all taking place in Montreal, but Rogie Vachon won three Stanley Cups for the Habs before all of his fine work in LA’s net. I guess we can share him. (video via Sportsnet)

Vachon’s ceremony was also a bit of foreshadowing; as we stated before the game, tonight was going to be all about the goaltenders. The unexpected twist was that Peter Budaj ended up being much busier than his more-heralded counterpart in the opposing net. Montreal was aggressive, but in contrast to their previous five games, they were aggressive to the point where the other team couldn’t generate a bunch of chances at the other end. Aside from one good shift from Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, and Teddy Purcell, LA was hemmed in for most of the first.

The Kings survived a Matt Greene penalty, and it looked like they were going to get away with spending a bunch of time in their own zone after a series of blocked shots by Alec Martinez and Derek Forbort. However, Martinez and Jake Muzzin had been on the ice for a minute and a half, and Alexander Radulov capitalized by faking out Muzzin and driving past him to the net to set up Paul Byron.

No such excuses for the second goal; Torrey Mitchell beat Jeff Carter cleanly off the draw, and Daniel Carr tipped in Andrei Markov’s point shot. The broadcasters had been saying that the only real way to beat Carey Price was to get traffic and to change the trajectory of shots as they came in, but LA got beaten to the punch, and it was 2-0 after one.

Montreal, predictably, formed more of a shell from that point on; they only got ten shots on Budaj in the final two periods. One of them went in, though. The real kicker was that is went in after Anze Kopitar’s creative move around Carey Price beat the goalie but not the post, and after Nic Dowd swung at a loose puck and caught a loose stick instead. At the other end, Jeff Petry’s shot led to a big rebound, and both Alec Martinez and Derek Forbort got turned around.

Philip Danault (the guy in front of Budaj) easily beat everyone else to the puck and slid it under a lunging Budaj to make it 3-0.

LA’s three offensive stars ensured that the game wouldn’t be a shutout, as a feed from Jeff Carter went off the skate of Anze Kopitar and straight to Tyler Toffoli on the power play. (That’s one way to change trajectory.) It was a breakthrough, but it could have been so much better; the goal took place on the back end of a four-minute power  play, and Kopitar had come thisclose to scoring on the front end of it. And while I’ve managed to come this far without talking about Carey Price, he made sure we were going to bring him up.

Price finished with 23 saves, well off of his usual workload, but he had been positionally perfect prior to the final ten minutes. At that point, LA ramped up the pressure, and he started showing off. Toffoli’s goal made it 3-1, but by the time Alex Galchenyuk was depositing an empty-netter, Montreal had weathered another power play and prevented the Kings’ forwards from getting another shot at even strength.

It was a disappointing night for the Kings; if Price had stolen the game it would have been one thing, but they simply couldn’t get things going until it was far too late. They’ll have an easier task in Ottawa tonight.