LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings jumped on a couple of early scoring chances and spent the rest of the night playing stellar defense. When a few shots broke through that defensive front, Jonathan Quick was there.
The Kings won the Stanley Cup two years ago with that basic formula, and they can see it clicking again as they close in on another playoff run.
Jeff Carter scored his 250th career NHL goal on a power play, Quick made 17 saves to remain unbeaten since the Olympic break, and Los Angeles beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 Monday night for its fifth straight victory.
Jake Muzzin scored an early goal for the Kings, who have won four games in six days since the break to solidify their playoff position in the Pacific Division, 10 points ahead of fourth-place Vancouver. Los Angeles might not be the most eye-catching team in the NHL, but the back-to-back Western Conference finalists’ results are becoming increasingly attractive.
“We’re playing the way I expected us to play coming out of the break,” said Justin Williams, who got an assist on Muzzin’s goal just 1:54 in by leading a rush. “We’re playing hard and not giving up leads. We do need to capitalize on more of our chances, but it’s two points we need for playoff position.”
Los Angeles took an early lead and hung on through 35 closing minutes of scoreless hockey for its first home victory over the Canadiens since March 8, 2003.
Quick put together another outstanding game for the Kings on the heels of his performance for the U.S. national team in Sochi, making a handful of big saves to beat the Canadiens for the first time in his career. With his 168th win, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner is just three behind Rogie Vachon for the Los Angeles franchise record.
“The style that we play, those are the kind of games you’re going to see more often than not,” Quick said. “At times it was a little slow, but I thought we carried the game for the most part. We didn’t give them many opportunities. It was the kind of game you want to play.”
The Kings followed up their 6-0 victory at Montreal on Dec. 10 with another solid performance against the Canadiens built around that defense. Los Angeles has allowed an NHL-low 134 goals, and Montreal couldn’t crack the Kings’ defense except for P.K. Subban’s fortunate deflection goal late in the first period.
“We played against the best defensive team in the league, and that showed,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said.
Peter Budaj stopped 20 shots for Montreal, which had won five of six. The Canadiens opened a four-game West Coast trip with their first regulation loss since Feb. 2 — and a taste of the frustration felt by Los Angeles’ more frequent opponents.
Stars 3, Sabres 2
In Dallas, Alex Chiasson broke a third-period tie with his first goal in 13 games, and Lindy Ruff earned his 600th NHL coaching victory with a win over his former team, Buffalo.
Jamie Benn’s slap shot from the blue line deflected off Chiasson and past goalie Jhonas Enroth for a power-play goal at 10:25 of the third. Ruff posted his first 571 wins with the Sabres before joining the Stars.
Wild 3, Flames 2
In St. Paul, Minnesota, Jared Spurgeon’s power-play goal in the third period helped the Wild beat Calgary and notch their season-high fifth straight win.
Kyle Brodziak also scored, rookie Darcy Kuemper stopped 21 shots during his 15th start in a row, and Minnesota raised its record at home to 22-7-2. Playing in front of their fans for the first time in 25 days due to the Olympic break, the Wild also improved to 14-4-2 since the new year began while welcoming captain Mikko Koivu back from injury.
Zach Parise gave the Wild some insurance by deflecting a shot past Reto Berra with 5:16 remaining for his 21st goal. Just 77 seconds later, Mark Giordano scored to bring the Flames back within a goal. But Kuemper hung on to raise his record to 11-3-2.
Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 1
In Toronto, Dalton Prout and Artem Anisimov scored second-period goals, and Columbus held off the hosts.
The Maple Leafs dropped their third straight since the Winter Olympics.