The Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens are atop their divisions, but neither are particularly happy about the way they're playing.
The Kings look to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since the opening week of the season Thursday night when they visit a Canadiens team that's trying to avoid a sixth defeat in seven games.
Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter described his team's play as “tired” and said it made “fatigued mistakes” in Monday's 5-3 loss to Ottawa. Jonathan Quick had one of his worst performances of the season with 16 saves as the Kings (19-9-2) yielded four second-period scores and gave up their most goals since a 5-1 defeat to San Jose in the opener.
In Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to Buffalo, Los Angeles had 21 shots – its fewest since a loss to Vancouver on Oct. 13 in its third game as part of an 0-3-0 start.
“We've lost two games in a row so it's not where we want to be at,” said Tyler Toffoli, who notched his second goal in 15 games Monday for his team-leading 12th. “We want to be winning games and digging deep and finding a way to come back if we're down. These last two games are a little bit of a wake-up call for us. We got to be winning games and separating ourselves from the rest of the guys in our division.”
Despite the back-to-back losses that followed a six-game winning streak, the Kings are still nine points ahead of second-place San Jose in the Pacific Division.
Montreal's Atlantic Division lead has taken a hit during a 1-5-0 stretch after it had an 11-point advantage Dec. 1.
The Canadiens (20-9-3) are coming off a sloppy performance in Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Sharks, with costly turnovers leading to all of San Jose's goals.
“It's tough to feel good about yourself when it's 3-0 and they didn't even have to work hard for their goals,” left wing Max Pacioretty said.
Montreal had plenty of scoring chances, holding a 27-18 advantage in shots, but again struggled to get anything past the opposing goalie. In six games since Dec. 3, the Canadiens' average of 33.3 shots on goal is one of the best in the NHL, but their 5.5 shooting percentage is one of the worst.
Dale Weise, second on the team with 10 goals, ended an 11-game stretch without a score Tuesday for Montreal, which has totaled 11 goals in the last six.
“We have so many excuses where we can say the puck's just not going in, but sometimes you've just got to look in the mirror,” Pacioretty told the Canadiens' official website. “We definitely moved the puck well on the power play in the third period, but we can't keep calling it bad luck. We've got to figure it out.”
Neither the Canadiens nor Kings are finding success on the power play, and it will be tough for either team to get it going.
In the last six games, Montreal hasn't scored on 18 power-play opportunities but has killed 15 of 17 penalties.
Los Angeles is 3 for 25 on the man advantage in the last 10 but has only allowed two goals in 19 times short-handed in the past six.
These teams split the 2014-15 series with each winning at home. The Kings have lost 13 of 15 in Montreal.