Canadiens fire blanks in uninspired loss at Los Angeles

“They (the Kings) give you no room to breathe,” says goaltender Jake Allen after suffering his fifth consecutive loss.

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The Los Angeles Kings fashion themselves as Stanley Cup contenders this season.

They’re a team that attacks in waves, pounces on opportunities, has an abundance of offence and generally keeps the puck out of its net. They will be battle-tested playing in the tough and competitive Pacific Division, where they’re one of three clubs — along with the defending-champion Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks — who could be the last team standing come June.

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The Canadiens, obviously, are not Cup contenders. And if Saturday afternoon’s 4-0 defeat to the Kings at Arena is any indication, they’re likely several seasons removed from that status. Not that the news should be considered surprising.

It marked the first time this season Montreal has been shut out.

“They (the Kings) give you no room to breathe,” goaltender Jake Allen told journalists in Los Angeles after suffering his fifth consecutive loss — not that the result was his fault. However, Allen, who made 26 saves, hasn’t won since Oct. 28 against Winnipeg.

“When you have time in space against those guys, it’s totally different than you would against another team,” Allen added. “They play probably the best team game I’ve seen in the league. It’s really impressive to watch.

“It’s a good lesson for us to realize how hard you have to play in all three zones. There’s a reason why they’re having so much success this year.”

Forward Trevor Moore paced the Kings with a pair of goals, giving him 11 in 19 games. Carl Grundstrom and Trevor Lewis also scored for Los Angeles, which improved its winning streak to five games, pushing its record to 13-3-3. It also was the Kings’ fifth consecutive victory against Montreal.

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Pheonix Copley, a 31-year-old Alaskan native who plays sparingly, blocked 18 shots for his first shutout this season and third of his career. In six games this season Copley has a 3-0-3 record.

Offence hasn’t been a problem for the Kings, who scored at least four goals for the 12th time this season. Los Angeles is the NHL’s second-high scoring team.

The Canadiens were completing a three-game swing through California and were playing their second game in as many days. While Montreal will depart the state with a commendable 2-1 record, they’ve now lost all three times during which they’ve played back-to-back games and were held to only four goals while allowing 14.

“They’re a good team, a deep team, that plays a really structured brand of hockey,” captain Nick Suzuki told journalists in Los Angeles. “We had to be on our best. I didn’t think we showed that tonight. They gave us a lot of trouble through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone.

‘I wouldn’t say we were that frustrated. We knew what to expect.”

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It was hard to find anything positive to say about the Canadiens on this day with Montreal going 0-for-3 on the power play.

They were held to a season-low one shot in the opening period — a clearing attempt while killing a penalty by defenceman Mike Matheson in the 12th minute.

Of their 18 shots, Sean Monahan and Matheson each had three.

Defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic had a plus/minus rating of minus-3, and was guilty of a turnover on the Kings’ third goal early in the final period. Jayden Struble, Christian Dvorak and the Canadiens’ fourth line of Michael Pezzetta, Jake Evans and Jesse Ylönon, all were minus-2.

Struble, who playing his third NHL game, was also expected to be left with what figured to be an enormous post-game bill as the Canadiens conducted their annual rookie dinner in Los Angeles. The team will have a day off Sunday in the city before conducting an early-morning Monday workout and flying to Columbus for the conclusion of this five-game road trip Wednesday night against the Blue Jackets. The Canadiens entertain Florida on Thursday.

“Honestly, I felt like we competed,” head coach Martin St. Louis told journalists in Los Angeles. “I felt like we worked. I think, if anything, it’s that the offensive pace … in terms of getting pucks back … in our defensive zone when they lose the puck they’re hunting to get it back. And there’s not much room. You can’t generate that without everybody working hard off the puck. And everybody having some pace to their game.

“That’s what we’re chasing. That’s what we want to look like. When we do that, we’re hard to play against. We just have to find more consistency in playing with that pace when we loose pucks.”

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