Los Angeles Hockey: Montreal Canadiens

Kings: Offense falters again in 2-1 loss to Habs

December, 3, 2011

LOS ANGELES—What happens when an offensively challenged hockey team loses its No. 1 goal scorer?

Not too difficult to predict. The Kings sunk further in the mud Saturday afternoon against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

Except for a nice surge the first seven minutes of the game, none of the Kings seemed willing to pick up the slack for Mike Richards, who went on injured reserve the day before after suffering an apparent concussion against Florida. The lack of activity in the offensive end added up to a 2-1 loss against the equally struggling Canadiens at Staples Center.

The Kings, ranked 25th in the league in scoring coming in at 2.3 goals a game, have scored two goals or less in the last five games. Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier, making his fifth start of the season, has been supported by just 10 goals during that stretch.

“We’ve been trying to score since the first game of the year,” said defenseman Jack Johnson. “We feel bad because, once again, our goalie played great and we only scored one goal. It has been a problem all year….if we had any [solutions], I don’t think it would be a problem.”

After the game, Kings coach Terry Murray singled out Johnson and fellow defensemen Drew Doughty for their lack of productivity, a slump that seems to be related to their unwillingness to shoot the puck.

Doughty, who skipped training camp while his representatives negotiated the team's most lucrative contract, has not scored a goal in the last 10 games and Johnson has one in the last 12.

“The back end has to be a big offensive contributor,” Murray said. “You saw Florida the other night. They have 62 points from their back-end group, so that’s a lot of points. That’s what we rely on for both Jack and Doughty. They need to start shooting the puck.”

Murray cited a prime example in the closing minute against Montreal. The Kings won a faceoff in the offensive zone and the puck came to Doughty in the slot, but he opted to carry the puck toward the wall, wasting valuable seconds off the clock.

“You’ve got to pound the puck away, you’ve got to get a lot more to the net,” Murray said. “That’s the reason, part of the time, whenever we end up with six shots in a period.”

Doughty and Johnson are far from alone in their goal-scoring droughts. Justin Williams, who scored 22 goals last season and didn’t go more than eight games without a goal, has not scored in the last 17 games. He didn’t take a shot against the Canadiens, committed three giveaways and was also whistled for a boarding penalty with the Kings on the power play and 2 minutes remaining in the game.

“Sometimes, I think he tries to do too much, other times I’d like to see him hold onto the puck a little more,” Murray said. “Getting pucks to the net is where he needs to get to on a consistent basis.”

That’s an area the entire team can improve, Murray said, and they fell woefully short down the stretch against Montreal, totaling just 13 shots on goal the final two periods.

“At the end of the day, again, we end up with six shots on net in the third period, in a critical time, in a 2-1 game,” Murray said. “That’s where you’ve got to have the mentality of really loading up in front of the net. You’ve got a get a dozen shots, you’ve got to get 15 shots in a game like tonight.”

The Kings will get their next shot Tuesday in Anaheim, when they visit a Ducks team that’s even worse offensively, beginning the day ranked 29th in the league in scoring.
Dave Joseph of 710 ESPN Radio takes a few moments to discuss the Kings loss vs. the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday afternoon.

Kings: Dustin Penner scores but L.A. trails, 2-1

December, 3, 2011
After the 2nd period:

Montreal Canadiens 2, Kings 1

The good: Yes, there is a Dustin Penner. After sitting out the last nine games with a hand injury and coasting through the previous 28 regular-season appearances without scoring a goal, Penner finally lit the lamp with 6:14 remaining in the second period, deflecting a point shot from Drew Doughty on a power play and re-directing it past Montreal goalie Carey Price to cut the deficit to 2-1. Penner was likely on the power play because Mike Richards went on injured reserve Friday with a possible concussion. Richards was a key cog on the unit for the Kings, so it’s a big plus when Penner can contribute in that area. Montreal left wing Erik Cole, best known for delivering the hit that knocked Doughty out with a concussion for six games last season, committed an interference penalty that preceded the power-play goal. He went back to the box later in the period for slashing and the Habs will have another 11 seconds to kill at the start of the third.

The bad: The Kings haven’t scored more than two goals in the last four games, yet they’ve come away with five points in that span. They’ll need to rally from behind in this one after giving up a second goal midway through the second period. Kings defenseman Matt Greene was unable to stop the puck as it headed outside the offensive zone and Louis Leblanc retrieved it with plenty of speed and both Andrei Kostitsyn and Lars Eller to his right. He passed the puck to Kostitsyn, who passed it to Eller, who sent it back to Kostitsyn for the one-timer past Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier and a 2-0 lead.

The in between: Price has certainly shown he’s beatable this season. Coming into the game, he was 16th in the league in goals-against at 2.29 a game and 21st in save percentage at .917. The Kings had 14 shots on goal in the opening period, but only seven in the second. They’ll need to pick up the pace if they want to earn some points this afternoon.

Kings: Tomas Plekanec scores, Habs lead, 1-0

December, 3, 2011
After the 1st period:

Montreal Canadiens 1, Kings 0

The good: The Kings kept Montreal goalie Carey Price busier than he probably envisioned in the opening period, sending 14 shots his way, including nine in the first seven minutes. Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne and Drew Doughty led the way with two each in the matinee at Staples Center. The Kings were also stingy on their defensive end, allowing just five shots on net by the visitors.

The bad: Despite the discrepancy in shot totals, the Kings headed to the locker room down a goal. They failed to score on three power-play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 that last 39 seconds. When the Habs finally got a chance with the man-advantage, they converted on a goal by Tomas Plekanec, the team’s leading point scorer with 22. Doughty earned the second penalty for the Kings after he was slammed into the boards by Lars Eller and he stayed down for a few moments before resuming play. The Kings are already down a couple players after injures last game to defenseman Willie Mitchell and center Mike Richards.

The in between: The best scoring chance for the Kings belonged to defenseman Jack Johnson and he wasn’t even trying to shoot on goal. He dumped the puck in the offensive zone, trying to run it along the side wall, but instead it took an odd bounce as Price was leaving the crease to trap the puck behind the net. The puck slid diagonally toward the goal line and would have crossed just inside the near post had Price not dove with an outstretched stick and tipped it away.

Kings: Injuries come into play as Habs visit

December, 2, 2011
Kings (13-8-4, 30 points) vs. Montreal Canadiens (10-11-5, 25 points) at Staples Center, 12:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. No Richards – The Kings will need to make due without their leading goal scorer, Mike Richards, who is expected to go on injured reserve this weekend. Richards suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Florida Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim late in the second period of a 2-1 victory Thursday night. Richards was playing as well as anybody on the team lately, scoring nine goals in the previous 10 games. Fortunately for the Kings, they have enough depth at center to plug the hole for a while, and left wing Dustin Penner is ready to come off injured reserve after missing the last nine games with a hand injury.

2. No Mitchell – The Kings also took a hit on the defensive side when Willie Mitchell left the game Thursday night with a lower-body injury. The rest of the blue liners did an admirable job picking up the slack against the Panthers, now it looks like it'll be up to Davis Drewiske to hold down the fort against the Canadiens. Drewiske will certainly be fresh, having played just one regular season game this season and spending the rest in the press box as a healthy scratch. He did play well in his only appearance in Philadelphia, so this is a good chance to prove that's more the norm. The Kings will also have a relatively fresh face in goal, as backup Jonathan Bernier is expected to start for just the fourth time this season.

3. Milestone for Murray – Kings coach Terry Murray enters this game with 499 career victories. With a win against the Canadiens, he would become the 17th coach in NHL history to reach 500 victories and the second in his family. His brother, Bryan, now the general manager of the Ottawa Senators, is seventh on the list with 619 career victories. Murray’s predecessor with the Kings, Marc Crawford, is also in the 500-win club. Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff is the last coach to get 500 wins, earning his last January.

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Kings: Defense takes another detour in 4-1 loss

November, 24, 2010
Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Kings dropped their fifth game in the last six Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens, looking lost and defenseless in the 4-1 defeat at Bell Centre.

THE STAT: The Kings have allowed 25 goals in the last six games, a main reason why they’ve lost their grip as the top team in the Western Conference and Pacific Division.

TURNING POINT: Alec Martinez scored his first NHL goal for the Kings on a power play 1 minute 57 seconds into the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1. Unfortunately, the Canadiens scored 79 seconds later to take back the two-goal lead and they never looked back.

HOT: The seat of the Kings’ defensive corps if they don’t figure out how to clear lose pucks from in front of their own net.

NOT: Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier couldn't have had more incentive to play well. Playing just a half-hour away from his home town and with dozens of friends and relatives in attendance, he continued his shaky play, however, allowing four goals on 33 shots. Bernier fell to 2-5 on the season and his goals-against average rose to 3.28.

GOOD MOVE: Calling up Martinez to bolster the power play paid early dividends. A day after he drove four hours from the team’s AHL headquarters in Manchester, N.H., the 23-year-old defenseman scored on his first shot.

BAD MOVE: Kings coach Terry Murray continues to start Bernier more than he deserves. Murray's goal is to keep No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick fresh for later in the season, but at this rate the Kings could be eliminated from the playoffs by February.

NOTABLE: The Kings haven't won in Montreal since 1999.

UP NEXT: vs. the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at Staples Center.

Kings: Looking to end trip on high note

November, 23, 2010
Kings (13-7-0) vs. Montreal Canadiens (13-7-1) at Bell Centre, 4:30 p.m. (PT)

Five storylines to track:

1. Road rules -- As the bleuprint goes, the surest way for an NHL team to advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs is to win most of its home games and play .500 on the road. The Kings are following that formula rather exactly, owning an 8-1-0 record at Staples Center and a 5-6-0 mark away from Los Angeles. A victory at Montreal will not only give the Kings a .500 road record for the season, but will push them to 2-2 for the road trip.

2. Bernier in the spotlight -- The Kings have allowed 21 goals in the last five games, but their goaltending hasn’t been as bad as the numbers indicate. Plenty of attention will be paid to Kings back-up Jonathan Bernier when he skates in front of the net against the Canadiens. He grew up about a half hour away in Laval and has envisioned this opportunity for as long as he has worn blockers. Kings coach Terry Murray previously stated he plans to give Bernier about 25% of the starts through the end of the year, but has recently hedged on that plan as Bernier has struggled and No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick has shined.

3. One rookie replaces another -- First-year defenseman Jake Muzzin was sent to the Kings’ AHL team in Manchester on Tuesday and another rookie defender was called up. What impact Alec Martinez will have, or if he’ll even suit up against Montreal, will be determined Wednesday. He has proved to be productive on the power play in Manchester, however, and the Kings can use all the help they can get in that area. They have just 12 goals in 81 man-advantage situations, leaving them 24th in the league in efficiency.

4. Crushing the advantage -- Where both teams have shined this season is on the penalty kill. Montreal is ranked No. 1 in the NHL with a 90.8% success rate, while the Kings have slid to sixth at 86.9%. Los Angeles was atop this category until losing four of the last five and allowing six power-play goals in 20 man-advantage situations during that stretch. Overall, Montreal is second in the league in fewest goals allowed (2.00) and the Kings are fifth (2.45), so there’s little room for error when facing these teams.

5. Halpern's helping hand -- The Kings didn’t get much out of Jeff Halpern when they traded for him last March. He failed to score a goal in 16 games for Los Angeles and wasn’t offered a contract at season’s end. He signed a one-year deal with Montreal in early September and has quietly emerged as the team’s fourth-leading scorer, producing 13 points while centering the third line. He had two assists in a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Monday, and was recently quoted as saying he enjoyed playing for the Canadiens because "they have a lot of good, smart players, and I knew that I’d be with good players no matter what (line) I played on." Feel free to read between the lines.