Andrei Kostitsyn scored the game-winning goal on a highlight-reel play and assisted on another as Montreal ended a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory in a Saturday matinee against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.
The Canadiens were 0-1-1 in games at San Jose and Anaheim, but left here on a good note after their power play ended an 0-for-24 slump and their penalty kill nullified five of six L.A. attempts. Montreal held L.A. to six shots in the third period.
The win came on a day the Canadiens found out that defenseman Andrei Markov would undergo a minor surgery on his knee and miss about three weeks.
"It's a big trip for us that could turn things around, and hopefully we start doing that," captain Brian Gionta said. "Obviously the last six games or so we've been struggling a bit, and tonight it was a pretty good effort for us."
"It was a pretty crummy start to that road trip," Price said. "So we definitely wanted to get that win."
Price stopped 26 of 27 shots for his 10th victory this season in a low-scoring affair in which Kings winger Simon Gagne hit the crossbar in the third period and Dustin Brown danced his way to the net, only to be denied by Price.
"He's a good player," Price said. "He's got some pretty good mitts. He toe-dragged it. I think he tried to go five-hole there and I just got the bottom of my cup on it."
Los Angeles saw its modest two-game winning streak end in what as the first real test of their depth. Second-leading scorer Mike Richards went on injured reserve with a possible concussion Friday, defenseman Willie Mitchell is out with a lower-body injury and backup Jonathan Bernier started in goal.
Dustin Penner returned to the lineup from a hand injury, though, and scored his first goal of the season but the Kings lost for only the second time in 13 games when they held the opposition to two goals or fewer.
The already offensive-challenged Kings have 12 goals in their last seven games.
Kostitsyn finished off a terrific play on a rush for a 2-0 lead. Rookie Louis Leblanc got it to Kostitsyn on the right side and Kostitsyn passed to Lars Eller before he returned the puck to Kostitsyn for a one-timer at 10:48.
Leblanc recorded his first NHL point on Kostitsyn's goal.
"It's pretty special – a young guy coming into the League," said Gionta. "You remember what that was like."
Montreal was outshot, 14-5, in the first period but that fifth one gave them a 1-0 lead. Tomas Plekanec scored on a wrist shot from the left circle after a nice pass from Kostitsyn to end a power-play slump that covered the previous six games.
That also ended L.A.'s streak of 24 straight penalties killed dating to Nov.19 against Detroit.
"It's finally good to convert when we have one in the red zone," Price said. "It's pretty frustrating to have that opportunity more than once and blow it. It's nice to get it done this afternoon."
L.A. grabbed momentum with two power plays late in the second and converted on Penner's redirect of Drew Doughty's shot that also appeared to glance off Price's stick.
But Los Angeles was outshot 22-13 over the final two periods and went 1-for-6 on the power play.
Coach Terry Murray called timeout just before L.A.'s fourth power play, but it wasn't to draw up a play.
"I thought our intensity with the puck and on the puck was not good enough," said Murray. "Some of the pucks we were putting in the offensive zone on that power play they were recovering. The goalie cleared one himself. Pucks that were along the boards, we were leaving the player by himself. You've got to have two or three on the puck to recover, and then you go to position."
Doughty and Jack Johnson are expected to help pick up the offense but the two defensemen combined for just three shots on goal. Doughty has no goals in 10 games.
"I think your back end has to be a big contributor on the offensive part of the game," Murray said.
Frustration marked the end when Jarret Stoll felt he was interfered by P.K. Subban. Stoll criticized the officials afterward but said overall that, "It's a disappointing loss. We feel we had a better game to put out there today than what we had and what we brought."
Montreal general manager Pierre Gauthier announced before the game that Markov will undergo a minor procedure.
"Markov's knee is almost at full strength," Gauthier said. "He's undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean up debris."
Markov had been cleared for contact weeks ago and there was speculation that he might return this week. Markov has not played in more than a year because of knee surgery and his struggle to recover from a second procedure last December.
Kings forward Scott Parse had hip surgery Friday and will miss about four months, a team spokesman confirmed.
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