It was a rematch of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final as the Kings rolled into the Bell Centre to take on the Habs on Saturday night. Montreal had a great first period, scoring three goals, and they were able to hang on for a 3-2 win.
There were some big changes made to the lineup, as Jonathan Drouin was promoted to the top line with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. The second line featured Paul Byron, Max Domi, and Joel Armia. Nick Suzuki moved back to the middle and centred Tomas Tatar and Artturi Lehkonen while the fourth line saw Nate Thompson lining up with Ryan Poehling and Nick Cousins, meaning that Jordan Weal continued to sit out. The top four remained the same on defence, with Brett Kulak drawing in next to Cale Fleury on the third pair.
The Habs came to play right from the opening draw. They used their speed and quick transition game to pressure the Kings right away in all three zones. The only chance the Kings were able to muster in the first ten minutes was a two on one that Mete made a great play to stop.
Nine minutes into the first period, Drouin used his speed to draw a holding penalty on Jeff Carter and send the Habs to the power play. On the power play, Shea Weber wound up for a blast that was blocked. The rebound flew up and right back to him. He made no mistake the second time and fired it home. This was a nice milestone for Weber as it was his 100th career power play goal.
This goal really got the Habs going, and just 15 seconds later Montreal doubled their lead. A nice forecheck from Tatar got the puck over to Lehkonen. Lehkonen brought the defender towards him and sent a perfect pass to a wide-open Thompson who tapped it home.
With eight minutes to go, Montreal was called for their first penalty of the night when Suzuki was called for slashing. Other than a point-blank shot from Michael Amadio that went over the net, the Kings did not have any real chances to score, as the Habs killed it off.
Late in the first period, Austin Wagner was called for tripping. Weber wasted no time working on his next hundred as the draw was won back to Drouin. Drouin then teed up a pass right in the wheelhouse and Weber blasted it home for a 3-0 lead.
With two minutes to go in the first, Cousins was called for interference. Early on in the power play, Carey Price robbed Drew Doughty with a quick flash of the leather. The Habs snuffed out the attack for the rest of the way and took their three-goal lead to the dressing room.
The Kings got some redemption to start the second period. Jeff Petry was called for tripping Blake Lizotte, sending Los Angeles to a very early power play. On the man advantage, the Habs lost the puck at their blue line. It came down to Lizotte and he found Anze Kopitar in the high slot. Kopitar used a deceptive shot to get the puck past Price and cut the lead to two.
The game settled down after the goal and the pace slowed down a few notches. This was until the eight-minute mark when Carl Grundstrom was called for high sticking. Suzuki showed some good vision quarterbacking the latter half of the power play but the Canadiens couldn’t break through. The Habs had a lengthy shift in the offensive zone after the power play was over but still could not convert.
Just seconds later, Kyle Clifford caught Petry with a high stick which drew blood, sending the Canadiens to a four-minute power play. During the extended man advantage, the Kings got much better at stopping the Habs at the blueline and sending them right back to their own zone. During the second half, the Habs started to establish more offensive zone time. Montreal was clearly trying to set up Weber, as he got three one-timers off, but Jonathan Quick stood tall on all of them.
The best chance came when a pass came from down low out to Armia in the high slot. Armia whistled a rocket, but Quick came across to make a great pad save. The efforts of Quick kept the Kings within two goals heading into the third period.
Early in the third period, Lehkonen had a burst of speed and drove around the defence. He was face to face with the Kings goalie, but Quick outwaited him and cut down the angle. Shortly after, Domi turned on the jets and came in on a partial break but was stopped. The Habs forechecked for the rebound, and it led to drawing a penalty. Quick made some more big saves on the man advantage, including a late one on a wide-open Tatar.
Midway through the third, there was a sequence where Kopitar carried the puck in, and there was a big scramble in front of the Habs net. Price made a few acrobatic saves to keep the puck out. On the same shift, there was another play where the puck went off Fleury in front, and Lizotte was there to bang home his first NHL goal to bring the Kings within one.
The Habs tried to respond to the goal right away when Lehkonen brought the puck into the zone and found Tatar in front. Tatar had a four by six to look at, but as he shot Quick swung his pad around to make a highlight-reel save to keep Los Angeles alive.
The Kings pulled their goalie late in the third to try and tie it up. The Canadiens stood up strong and fought off a furious attack to preserve the win. Although the final score was just 3-2, this was a great game from the Habs and the score could have been a lot higher if it wasn’t for some great saves from Quick.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Shea Weber
This was an easy selection for first star tonight. Weber had two of the Habs’ three goals tonight, including the game-winner. This was also the most dangerous that Weber’s shot has looked all season, as he had several chances to complete the hat trick. He was also an integral part of the final stand late in the game.
Stats: 2G (GWG), 7 SOG, 25:07 TOI
Second Star – Artturi Lehkonen
This may have been Lehkonen’s best game of the season. Although his name only appears on the scoresheet once, he had many chances and could have easily had a few goals. Quick robbed Lehkonen of a goal and an assist in the third period alone. It was encouraging to see how well he played tonight.
Stats: 1A, 3 SOG, 3 hits, 12:26 TOI
Third Star – Jonathan Drouin
Drouin played great in the role of the setup man. He had an assist on two of the three goals, including a very nice setup on the game-winning goal. He also did not look out of place playing on the top line alongside Danault and Gallagher.
Stats: 2A, 1 SOG, 1 hit, 22:10 TOI
Honorable Mention – Max Domi
Max Domi was flying all over the ice. There were several times where he used his speed to take the puck from the defensive zone and create an odd-man rush going the other way. He and his linemates created many high danger scoring chances all night.
Stats: 1A, 2 SOG, 16:56 TOI