LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings were working for the weekend.
Anze Kopitar , Tanner Pearson and Dwight King scored and the surging Kings defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at Staples Center on Thursday.
The Kings (38-21-4) won for the fifth time in six games to retain first place in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles and the Anaheim Ducks have 80 points entering their game Saturday at Staples Center; the Kings are first because they have three more regulation/overtime victories.
"It's going to be the biggest game of the year," King said. "Everybody knows that going in, obviously. Everybody knows what's on the line. Everybody's aware of that. So it's going to be, pretty much, playoff hockey."
It was the seventh one-goal game in the past 10 for Los Angeles, which scored more than two goals for the first time in six games.
"It's a step in the right direction," King said. "Obviously the win is the only thing that matters. As long as we've got everyone building more confidence [with] 20 more games left or so heading into the playoffs."
Video: MTL@LAK: Pearson extends lead in the 1st period
P.K. Subban and Lars Eller scored for the Canadiens (30-29-6). Montreal made it 3-2 with 5:54 remaining when Eller's shot from the right side skipped past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. But the Canadiens finished 0-2-1 on the California stretch of their four-game trip that concludes Saturday at the Winnipeg Jets.
Montreal had a season-low 15 shots on goal and was outshot 13-2 in the third period.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien said his players "didn't have any energy" after a 3-2 shootout loss at Anaheim on Wednesday. Montreal captain Max Pacioretty, who had a rough night -- he lost a skate blade on the Kings' first goal and later took a delay of game penalty -- called it a physical three games in California and credited the Kings.
"You know why that team has had so much success, both this year and in the past," Pacioretty said. "They just take away your time and space. Going up against Kopitar and [defenseman Drew] Doughty, I felt like there was no room out there … they just outplayed us tonight."
King scored an unassisted goal after Subban lost the puck at mid-ice. King grabbed it and beat Canadiens goalie Ben Scrivens five-hole at 5:16 of the third for a 3-1 lead.
Video: MTL@LAK: King forces turnover for breakaway goal
"I tried to force him to shoot," Scrivens said. "He opened me up a little bit. I thought he was going around. It was a good goal."
Kopitar and Pearson scored in the opening four minutes of the game.
Pearson scored on a snap shot off a faceoff win at 3:33 to give the Kings two goals on four shots against former Kings goalie Scrivens, who finished with 28 saves and is 0-5-0 on the road this season.
"They came out focused and they executed well early on," Scrivens said. "It took us a little bit to get into the game. I thought they executed on two well set-up plays."
Pearson's 12th goal matched his career high, set last season, and was his fourth in three games.
Kopitar tipped in defenseman Alec Martinez's shot 56 seconds into the game for his 19th goal.
Video: MTL@LAK: Subban puts Canadiens on the board with goal
Montreal was outshot 9-1 through the opening 16 minutes before Subban got an open look at the top of the circle and beat Quick with a slap shot with 1:28 left in the period.
The Kings made Quick's workload light the rest of the way.
"We didn't give up much," coach Darryl Sutter said. "They had just a handful of chances. Three [goals] is enough to win, and they were probably fortunate to get two on us."
Forward Kris Versteeg made his Kings debut after being acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday; he had two shots on goal and was minus-1 in 10:00 of ice time.
Video: Trio of goals key Kings' win over Canadiens