LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings took the long and arduous way to two points Thursday, but they'll gladly take any route that helps them get closer to a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Anze Kopitar scored in the fourth round of the shootout and goalie Jonathan Quick stopped two of four attempts to give the Kings a 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Staples Center.
Kopitar scored on a snap shot past goalie Dustin Tokarski, and Montreal's Lars Eller hit the crossbar to seal the win for the Kings (31-21-12). Los Angeles is even with the Calgary Flames in the race for third place in the Pacific Division, the final guaranteed spot in the playoffs; however, Calgary owns the tiebreaker because it has two more non-shootout wins.
"We know what we need to do," Kings forward Marian Gaborik said. "We need to take it game-by-game and period-after-period. We know what our goal is, and we want to keep climbing."
The Eastern Conference-leading Canadiens (41-18-6) are 0-2-1 on a four-game road trip that ends with a game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. Tokarski made 27 saves and helped Montreal withstand the first half of the game but allowed three goals in the shootout in his attempt at his first win since Jan.17.
"You let three out of four [goals go] in in the shootout, you never did your job," Tokarski said. "Obviously I'd like to battle it out and make one or two of those."
Gaborik scored two goals in regulation and the first goal in the shootout. Los Angeles was 1-7 in shootouts this season, with two goals in 27 attempts. Kopitar got his first goal in eight attempts in the tiebreaker. All those statistics dissipated, though, in the Kings' first shootout game since Jan.17.
"We haven't played a shootout game for a while," Gaborik said. "I don't know. There was a sense of confidence that we could do it. We're fortunate we did. They could have pulled it off earlier, but two points come and we just have to get the next one."
Gaborik tied the game 3-3 with 45 seconds left in regulation when he scored his second goal of the game on a 6-on-4 advantage, with Quick off for an extra attacker. Gaborik got the puck in the slot, spun and shot it past Tokarski with Eller serving a high-sticking penalty.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he knew it would be a tough game. He elicited laughter when asked if he looks at the standings more, and if every game is a must-win game from here on out.
"If you're a Canadian, everybody's looking at the standings," Sutter said. "I'm a Canadian, so I'm looking at them.
"There's no 'must. You don't have to do anything. Try and win. There's no such thing as a must-win. Nobody gets locked up or thrown in the ocean. It's just a game."
Montreal was on the verge of a come-from-behind win when Max Pacioretty scored his 31st goal on a tap-in of a David Desharnais pass at 7:12 of the third for a 3-2 lead after Montreal erased a 2-0 deficit late in the second period.
Defenseman Tom Gilbert and Brendan Gallagher scored 94 seconds apart in the second to get the Canadiens even at 2-2 after Montreal had five shots in the first 35 minutes.
Gilbert drove to the net off a faceoff win by Desharnais and scored at 15:15. The Kings' Justin Williams was slightly impeded by a referee while trying to get to Gilbert, who scored his first goal since Jan. 3.
Gallagher tied it when he scored on a backhand in front at 16:49 after P.K. Subban kept the puck in to set up Tomas Plekanec's initial shot and rebound.
Montreal was outshot 17-5 before the two-goal flurry, which would have made the comeback all the more sweeter.
"It's not a good result at all," Pacioretty said. "We had that game in the bag, and we were playing the right way. Then we obviously let it slip, and that is a frustrating feeling. We've got to find ways to close out games, especially against an opponent like that, who has had success of late."
Gaborik scored his 17th goal and Jeff Carter his 22nd in a first period controlled by the Kings, who outshot the Canadiens 13-2. Montreal's second shot was by Alex Galchenyuk with one second left in the period.
Gaborik deflected Brayden McNabb's point shot past Tokarski at 4:02 for a power-play goal. Carter finished a give-and-go with Dustin Brown at 8:03 when Montreal's defense left Carter alone to go to the net.
Subban praised Tokarski for getting through the early onslaught and said the Canadiens didn't do enough to help him.
"He got us a point and it is tough to do that," Subban said. "Obviously we'd like to get him the win today. There's been times this year where he's gone in, played really well, but he's gotten the short end of the stick. I don't think this loss can be hung on his head."
Williams played in his 900th regular-season game.