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Late-game heroics push Kings past Canadiens

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

– After allowing three unanswered goals to surrender an early two-goal lead, the Kings pulled off some late-game magic in a 4-3 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night at STAPLES Center.

The Kings came out of the gate hot, overwhelming Montreal as they took a 2-0 lead in the opening frame, outshooting the Canadiens 13-2.

“We came out with the right mindset, we came out shooting,” said Jake Muzzin after the win. “That was big for us; it was nice to get the ball rolling to start. We had some opportunities to put the game away in the second and we couldn’t, that gave them life but we shouldn’t need the late game heroics if we capitalize on our chances.”

During their first power play of the evening, Marian Gaborik got the Kings on board with a nifty redirection in front of Dustin Tokarski’s net. Upon receiving a pass from Jake Muzzin, Brayden McNabb fired a slap shot from the top of Montreal’s zone, which Gaborik tracked the entire way before tipping past Tokarski.

Just over four minutes after Gaborik buried the Kings’ first goal of the evening, Jeff Carter upped the Kings’ lead to two. Carter chipped a puck low to Dustin Brown, then fled directly toward Montreal’s net. Brown found Carter with a pass on the back door, which he punched past Tokarski to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.

The Canadiens responded with a strong second period, scoring two goals to even the score prior to heading into the second intermission.

“We should’ve been up three or four to nothing,” Darryl Sutter noted of the Kings’ strong start. “We didn’t put it away when we had glorious opportunities in the second period.”

Max Pacioretty scored Montreal’s third unanswered goal of the evening just over seven minutes into the third, giving the Canadiens their first lead of the contest. The Kings suddenly found themselves on their heels, until they were granted a power play with 1:35 remaining in regulation.

With under a minute left in regulation, and with Jonathan Quick pulled from the Kings’ net, the Kings worked a 6-on-4 power play that eventually resulted in a Marian Gaborik game-tying goal. Gaborik received a pass from Anze Kopitar behind Montreal’s net, walked out in front and fired a well-placed shot to the far side past Tokarski to tie the game with 45 seconds to play.

Both teams played through a scoreless overtime period, the Kings registering the only shot on goal during the five-minute frame.

In the shootout, Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter scored for the Kings in the first two rounds; David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty scored for the Canadiens in the second and third rounds, and Anze Kopitar netted the game-deciding goal in the fourth round. Jonathan Quick nixed Lars Eller’s fourth round bid to seal the win for the Kings.

“We had a good start, we were all over them in the first half of the game, and then we let it get away from us a little bit,” Marian Gaborik said following the win. “It was a battle for 65-plus minutes, and the shootout was the difference.”

Jeff Carter played in his 700th NHL game Thursday night, his 200th in a Kings uniform. Justin Williams played in his 900th NHL game, and the Kings, as a franchise, played their 3,700th game since joining the league in 1967.

Even with the win, the Kings finish the night still outside of a Western Conference playoff position. The Kings are tied at 74 points with Calgary for the Pacific Division’s third and final playoff spot, but the Flames hold the tiebreaker. The Kings are two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second and final wild-card berth.

Marian Gaborik (2G) and Jake Muzzin (2A) led all Kings players in points scored (2), Marian Gaborik and Jake Muzzin in shots taken (4), Matt Greene and Trevor Lewis in hits delivered (5), Matt Green, Jake Muzzin, and Andrej Sekera in shots blocked (2), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (31:13). Jonathan Quick made 15 saves in the win.

With the win, the Kings’ record improves to 31-21-12; their mark on home ice at STAPLES Center jumps to 21-7-6. The Kings will finish their quick two-game home stand Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins; the puck is slated to drop just after 7:00PM PT.

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