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Habs vs Kings recap: California Nightmare Part Three

The Canadiens had another chance to put an end to their recent west coast troubles

Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal's west coast trip continued last night, with the Habs  in Los Angeles to face the defending Stanley Cup champions.

They continued their California tradition of allowing a quick goal against, lasting only four minutes until they conceded a marker against the Kings. With Torrey Mitchell in the box for hooking, Marian Gaborik out-muscled Tim Gilbert to get a stick on a Brayden McNabb point shot. Dustin Tokarski had absolutely no chance on the play.

A few minutes later the Kings would strike again, this time during 5-on-5 play. Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter connected on a give-and-go, which once again left absolutely no chance for Tokarski to make the save. P.K. Subban was checking Justin Williams up high, and David Desharnais failed to cover, leaving Carter plenty of time to bury the shot over the sprawling goaltender.

The second goal quickly prompted some line shuffling from Therrien, but it was to no avail, as the Kings continued their dominant play throughout the remainder of the period. Brendan Gallagher managed a shot in the dying seconds of the frame, but even if the Kings had played without a goalie, the period would have ended 2-2.

Los Angeles only held a 2-0 lead, but it already felt like the game was over. 15 minutes into the second period, and the sentiment reigned supreme. The Kings were not allowing the Habs to send any pucks on Jonathan Quick, and the mere act of entering zone in a controlled manner seemed like an unattainable task.

And then, Tom Gilbert happened. The puck-moving defenceman took matters into his own hands, using his body to shield the puck as he drove the net. Quick was caught off guard, and Gilbert calmly placed the puck in the Kings' net.

The goal was enough to give the Canadiens hope, and that seemed to be the missing ingredient, as they would waste no time tying the game.

Subban kept the puck in the offensive zone by applying a smart pinch, once he recovered the biscuit he quickly found a wide open Tomas Plekanec, who quickly put a backhand shot on net. The puck ended up on the stick of Brendan Gallagher, and he made no mistake, potting his 18th goal of the campaign.

The Habs outplayed the Kings for roughly five minutes out of the 40 that had elapsed, but they found themselves deadlocked at two heading into the third period. As is the case in most Canadiens games, Max Pacioretty eventually found the back of the net. He capitalized on some defensive scrambling by Los Angeles, and a nifty pass by Desharnais to give the Habs a 3-2 lead.

Despite Dustin Tokarski's fantastic effort in net, the one-goal lead would not prove to be enough. With less than a minute left to play, Marian Gaborik found himself with plenty of space to work with, quickly scoring the tying goal that the Kings probably deserved.

Pacioretty and Desharnais both showed great patience to beat Quick during the eventual shootout, but it wouldn't be enough, as the Kings scored on three of their four attempts, earning the coveted extra point.

shot chart

As has been the case throughout the California trip, Montreal once again failed to compete in the possession game. The Kings didn't allow the Habs to enter the zone very much, and when they did manage to crack the blue line they rarely produced scoring chances.

That being said, there were a few silver linings that we can take from this game.

Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry played like a first pairing. Gilbert came through with his great individual goal, and did a fantastic job of limiting opposing scoring chances. Petry was on another level. He managed to produce a +8 Corsi, which may not sound like an incredibly impressive number, but when your next closest teammate is at 0, you can start to get an idea how well the player performed. The new number 26 is quickly becoming one of Montreal's best defenders.

After a rough go in his last few starts, Dustin Tokarski put together a solid effort. He his team in the game, and they have him to thank for the single point.

Devante Smith-Pelly had his best game so far with his new club. Besides his perfect imitation of the Kool-Aid Man, he seemed little lighter on his feet compared to previous outings.

Lars Eller, despite his ill-timed penalty in the third period, played another solid game. His perfect shootout attempt that ended up hitting the post was basically his season in a nutshell; doing all the right things, but not getting the desired results. His lack of production is certainly frustrating, but there's no denying he's playing a smart game lately.

Up next is the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night, which will finally put an end to Montreal's hellish road trip.