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It really looked like the Canadiens were starting to turn a corner in their play on Saturday night. They started their game versus the Vegas Golden Knights in full control of the possession, starting off with long-distance shots then gradually working in closer to the net with much more dangerous chances. By the end of the first period they had 20 shots on net, had only allowed one, and held a deserved 2-0 lead.
That was all the offence they could muster, however, and their penalty-kill allowed the Golden Knights to get back in the game, responsible for two of the three goals surrendered in the second period. Montreal looked shocked by the turn of events, and were in full panic mode trying to throw the puck out of their zone to prevent more goals. They never recovered their composure, and saw the best start to a game this season turn into yet another lopsided defeat.
Their bid to regroup from that 20-minute effort will have to go through the Los Angeles Kings, a team that handed them another bad loss (there have been a lot of them) last Saturday in California. The Kings played last night and dismantled the Toronto Maple Leafs, so the Habs have the rest advantage for this game having enjoyed two days off.
Tale of the Tape
|51.9% (12th)||Scoring-chances-for %||48.9% (21st)|
|2.00 (31st)||Goals per game||2.83 (18th)|
|3.46 (28th)||Goals against per game||2.67 (10th)|
|13.6% (25th)||PP%||19.2% (19th)|
|66.0% (29th)||PK%||69.7% (28th)|
The penalty kill was a deciding factor in that game at Staples Center as well. The short-handed units were incapable of keeping tabs on the Kings’ shooters, who held target practice on Jake Allen to go three-for-five in a 5-2 win. The Kings came into the game as one of the lowest-scoring clubs in the NHL, and got goals from four different players to snap a long losing streak.
Starting with the win over Montreal, Los Angeles has now won five in a row, a couple of them needing overtime, but last night’s 5-1 win in Toronto holding nowhere near the same drama.
The Kings can thank Phillip Danault for that. In addition to contributing to a dominant night in the faceoff circle for the team, Montreal’s former top-line centre scored the 3-1 and 4-1 goals, his first ones since the opening game of the season. He’s now up to eight points through 12 games, and clearly enjoying his new home.
The player Montreal brought in to help take some of the responsibilities Danault had held hasn’t been faring quite so well lately. Christian Dvorak had been one of the more important members of the lineup when he was playing with Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson, but found himself on the third line on Saturday, and has been missing some quality chances in recent games. He now seems to be dealing with an injury, forced to miss yesterday’s practice and being questionable for tonight’s game. It’s yet another wrench thrown into Montreal’s centre depth that hasn’t been settled all season.
As it stands, the lineup down the middle could consist of Nick Suzuki — who has had a point on all seven goals the Canadiens have scored in the last three games — Jake Evans, Adam Brooks, and Cédric Paquette. Even if the Kings are feeling the effects of their game last night, Danault, Anze Kopitar, Rasmus Kupari, and Blake Lizotte should be able to control those matchups. The Kings didn’t need their special teams firing to pull out the win in Toronto, and may not tonight, either. If that’s the case, the Habs will be in tough to keep their skid from hitting three games.