Overmatched Canadiens shut out by Kings for second straight time this season

Kings 4, Canadiens 0. “I felt like they were winning after the first, but I didn’t feel they were beating us,” coach St. Louis says.

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There’s no shame losing to the Los Angeles Kings, a team that appears built for a legitimate Stanley Cup run.

But failing to score a goal in two games? That’s hardly a badge of honour for the Canadiens. Nonetheless, the 4-0 loss to the Kings Thursday night at the Bell Centre had a distinctly different feel than the 4-0 defeat administered by Los Angeles, on the road, Nov. 25.

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For starters, Montreal registered only 18 shots on net that afternoon. This time? Not all that more — 24 — but the Canadiens had considerably more scoring opportunities, particularly during the first period, when they enjoyed a 13-11 advantage in shots but made two mistakes and faced a 2-0 deficit in the intermission.

“I think I deserved a better fate after that first period,” Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis said. “I thought we had a good period, a good start. We were executing. We had a lot of looks but didn’t finish our chances. If anybody doesn’t know anything about the league and watched that first period, I don’t think they would have guessed that L.A. would be up 2-0.

“That’s just the game and against a good team … you have to be opportunistic on your chances. I felt like they were winning after the first, but I didn’t feel they were beating us. Against L.A., when you’re down 2-0, you have to score the next one and we didn’t do that.”

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With the victory, their 11th consecutive on the road, the Kings established an NHL record for the longest consecutive streak to begin a season. Los Angeles had shared the mark with the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres.

To put that into perspective, the Canadiens won only 14 games on the road all of last season. Here’s something else to ponder: Montreal hasn’t scored a goal on the Kings since last March 2; Denis Gurianov, no longer with the team, notched one in the third period of a 3-2 road defeat.

Quinton Byfield, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound beast, paced the Kings on Thursday with two goals, including one on the power play, while adding an assist, giving him 8-13-21 totals through 23 games. On his opening goal, late in the first period, he effortlessly skated around defenceman Kaiden Guhle — the unfortunate clubhouse leader this night with a plus/minus mark of minus-3 — before deking goaltender Samuel Montembeault.

The Canadiens have now allowed a power-play goal in four consecutive games and eight of the last 10. Montreal, conversely, had three extra-man opportunities against Los Angeles, including two in the first period.

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Defenceman Drew Doughty, who turns 34 on Friday yet remains effective, and Trevor Moore, with his team-leading 13th goal, also scored.

It was this kind of a night for the Canadiens: Defenceman Justin Barron tripped over an official, providing Moore with a breakaway, eight minutes into the third period.

The Canadiens have been rotating their three netminders of late, but Montembeault was the first since Jake Allen on Oct. 21 and 23 to play a second consecutive game. Montembeault, who made 38 stops for a .905 save percentage, wasn’t the reason Montreal lost.

“I think you kind of have to ignore the score and realize our game tonight was way better than it was in L.A. on all fronts,” defenceman Mike Matheson said. “I think the whole game was a little bit frustrating by the fact we were generating a lot of chances and weren’t burying them. It’s a much different feeling compared to the game we had in L.A., where … let’s face it … we didn’t belong on the ice against them. We just didn’t bring our A-game or even our B-game.

“You can’t do that against a team like that. Whereas tonight, I don’t know what the (scoring) chances were exactly but I’d imagine we had more chances than them. I don’t think they had their A-game. Part of that was because of the things we were doing. If you go back, look at the tape and ignore the score, I think there’s a lot to take from it. It would have been great to bury some of the chances we got.”

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Indeed. In the first period, Sean Monahan had goalie Cam Talbot beaten — but failed to beat the right post while the Canadiens were on the power play. Seconds later, Juraj Slafkovsky, positioned at the side, missed an open net. Captain Nick Suzuki struck the post early in the second after being fed by Slafkovsky.

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Talbot, 36, playing on his seventh NHL team in 11 seasons and on a one-year contract, recorded his second shutout this season while improving to 12-4-1. He undoubtedly finds it much easier playing behind the Kings’ suffocating 1-3-1 system.

This was the first of three Canadiens games in four days. They travel to Buffalo Saturday night before entertaining Nashville on Sunday.

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