It hasn't happened very often this season in games involving the Canadiens, but tonight the Kings were a shadow of the team they have been so far this season.
Kings fans, who hadn't seen their team in person for three weeks, were expecting a better effort for the homecoming. Canadiens' fans who showed up in red at the Staples Center were happy to celebrate loudly throughout the game.
"The Montreal Canadiens are a very desperate hockey club," Murray said. "They're on the bubble, so you've got to recognize that and know that the intensity is going to be high. They showed it in the first shift, and we weren't ready to match it."
Full marks to the Habs, who showed intensity with a strong start by attacking the L.A. net, resulting in their first goal only 22 seconds into the game. The line of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, and Benoit Pouliot gave the Canadiens an early lead.
"Anytime you can jump on a team like that early in the game like that, those things kind of set the tone," Gionta said.
But the goal that really seemed to deflate the Kings was a short-handed marker by Dominic Moore five minutes into the second period. It was a weak goal given up by L.A. netminder, Jonathan Quick. The Kings only managed five shots on goal in the second frame despite having three power-play advantages.
The Gomez trio was also responsible for a goal in the first minute of the third period, giving their team a two-goal lead. The Kings were unable to manage a shot on goal for a ten minute stretch in the period.
The Canadiens penalty-killers were perfect on four Kings' opportunities in the game. The Habs had several scoring chances while short-handed, in addition to Moore's goal.
Los Angeles forwards dominated the faceoff dot, with Jarett Stoll and Michal Handzus combining for an impressive 83 percent success rate. Tomas Plekanec was the best Habs center at 50 percent. Moore, acquired for his faceoff prowess, was a disappointing 31 percent.
Coach Jacques Martin shortened the bench with Glen Metropolit, Ben Maxwell, and Mathieu Darche each receiving just over five minutes of ice-time. Martin was not at all pleased with Metropolit, who got caught standing still and let Anze Kopitar wheel around him for the Kings' first goal.
Jaroslav Spacek and Ryan O'Byrne were the two strongest defensemen for the Canadiens. Spacek had a plus-3 rating, while O'Byrne led the team with four blocked shots.
"We played a strong game defensively," coach Martin said. "It was one of our better games away from the puck as far as getting good protection for our goalie."
Jaroslav Halak made 23 saves, but was not seriously tested until late in the third period.
It was the Canadiens' fifth straight victory over the Kings. With the win, the Habs take over sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern conference.
The Western road trip concludes Sunday night with a game against Anaheim.
Rocket's three stars:
1. Brian Gionta
2. Scott Gomez
3. Jarret Stoll
Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.
(photo credit: Getty)