Kings strike early in 3-2 victory over the Canadiens

The Kings lost their long-held lead in the Pacific Division for a little more than an hour Thursday night.

This time, they could do something about it. They took matters into their own hands with a welcome burst of offense, defeating the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2, at Staples Center and jumped over Anaheim to retake the Pacific lead.

The Ducks, who come to Staples Center on Saturday, briefly took over first place with their 5-1 victory at Arizona earlier in the evening.

But wait … three goals?

That represented a virtual glut of offense the way things have been going of late for the Kings. It was the first time in nine games the Kings scored more than two goals, going all the way back to their 5-4 overtime victory against the New York Rangers on Feb. 12.

Scoring for the Kings — against a former teammate, Montreal goalie Ben Scrivens — were center Anze Kopitar and wingers Tanner Pearson and Dwight King.

Montreal mustered a season-low 15 shots and the Kings outshot the Canadiens, 13-2, in the third period.

“I think everybody's just gripping their sticks a little bit,” King said of the scoring woes, adding that the three-day break between games helped.

King's goal provided a cushion, giving the Kings a 3-1 lead, at 5:16 of the third period. King might not score many goals — this was his seventh of the season — but he looked like a poised goal-scorer, taking advantage of a turnover by Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, who lost the puck and then fell down.

Smoothly, King carried into the zone, faked the shot and beat Scrivens with a shot from the left circle.

“I think he [Scrivens] thought I was going to go around him, so I kind of slid it through him,” King said. “Once I knew how much time I had, that's the first thing that crossed my mind. Figured I'd try it.”

So is that his go-to move?

“No. I think it's the first time it's ever worked,” King said. “I've tried it a lot closer … but never from quite that far out.”

Lars Eller pulled Montreal within one with his late goal, scoring with 5:54 remaining. But the Canadiens could not get the equalizer despite pulling Scrivens with a little more than a minute and a half remaining.

Kopitar had scored 56 seconds into the game, and the Kings built a 2-0 lead before the four-minute mark, as Pearson scored his 12th of the season. He is on a strong run with four goals in the last three games.

It was a welcome turn of events for the Kings, who have been relying heavily on All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick.

The Kings have been hit by a litany of injuries, starting with Quick getting hurt at the end of their 9-2 win at Boston. Marian Gaborik suffered a knee injury in the Rangers game and probably is out until just before the playoffs, if all goes well.

Kopitar got hurt, as well, but missed only one game. Physical winger Jordan Nolan wasn't so fortunate, suffering an upper-body injury on the trip and missing the last six games.

Nolan, who was placed on injured reserve last week, will be missing substantially more time. He had surgery for a herniated disk Thursday, according to the Kings. There was not an immediate timetable for his estimated return. In 52 games, Nolan has five assists and 38 penalty minutes.

The Montreal game marked the debut of Kings winger Kris Versteeg, who was acquired in a trade Sunday with Carolina. He logged 10 minutes of ice time and had two shots on goal.

“It felt good. Those four days [between games] there was a lot of sitting and stewing and thinking,” Versteeg said. “It was nice to get back playing again and get some games going again.”

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 04, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Kings explode for 3 in win - L.A. has a fast start, but King's slick third-period goal ends up making difference. - KINGS 3 MONTREAL 2" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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