MONTREAL — After a three-game offensive drought, the Los Angeles Kings appear to have once again found their scoring touch. Now they'll look to keep it going against a goaltender that hasn't allowed much to get by him.
The Kings arrive in Montreal having outscored their opponents 15-0 in their past three games, including a 7-0 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. On Thursday, they'll put it to the test against the Canadiens' Carey Price, who's been seeing a lot of pucks lately and stopping nearly all of them.
“A few lucky bounces here and there, but all in all it's starting to come together for us,” Los Angeles center Jeff Carter said after the win in Toronto. “We just have to keep going with the way we have played.”
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Carter's five goals and nine points are tied for the team lead with winger Tanner Pearson and defenseman Alec Martinez, respectively.
Montreal (11-1-1) has won two in a row since being blown out by the Columbus Blue Jackets, but a large part of that has been due to their masked man. In their 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, the Canadiens allowed more than 40 shots for the third time in their past four games and gave up at least 35 for the fourth straight game.
Price, who is 8-0 on the season with a 1.63 goals-against average and .953 save percentage, has allowed just 13 goals to date. Four of those came in one game (Saturday against the Flyers), and it was the only time he's seen more than two goals get by him.
The Kings (7-6-0) are used to quality netminding, but these days it's been coming from an unlikely source. After starter Jonathan Quick was injured in Los Angeles' season opener and back-up Jeff Zatkoff suffered a groin injury on Oct. 22 during a morning skate, Peter Budaj has been handling the load. Budaj, who served as Price's back-up for three seasons (2011-12 to 2013-14) has started every game since Oct. 20 for Los Angeles.
“He's a veteran that's come in and has given us some stability. Hey, he's been in our organization — this is our second year, so he's familiar with the organization,” coach Darryl Sutter said of the goalie, who is 7-3-0 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
Even when they weren't winning or scoring, Sutter's group has made life easier on Budaj; he's only faced more than 26 shots once and has yet to face at least 30.
“When you're a high-possession team, you don't play very much is your own zone, and that means you have the puck more than the other team, and it allows you to take some pressure off your goalie,” Sutter said. “I think we take great pride in not getting a lot of shots against, giving up a lot of shots. And with that, that's the quality part of it, too. That's the reason we've been able to win a lot of games the last few years.”
Zatkoff is close to returning and is on the trip with the team.
After starting the season with four points in Montreal's first four games, center David Desharnais has struggled to generate much since, held without a point in the past nine games. He's mustered just eight shots on goal during that stretch, but none in the Canadiens' past two outings. He alternated with Philip Danault on a line with Max Pacioretty and Andrew Shaw at practice on Wednesday, but coach Michel Therrien wouldn't confirm if he would be scratched.
“I have to be better,” Desharnais acknowledged. “I'm responsible for my own actions. Statistics have always been talked about during my career so if I don't have any points, obviously it's tough to stay in the line-up.”