THE LEARNING CURVE KINGS STRUGGLES CONTINUE IN, OF ALL PLACES, MONTREAL MONTREAL 3, KINGS 1.
MONTREAL - Whether they were battling for the Stanley Cup 10 years ago or struggling Saturday night in search of a little momentum, the Kings just don't play very well here.
The numbers don't lie: just nine victories in 35 years. But more graphic was the look on Ian Laperriere's face after the Kings were bounced 3-1 by the Canadiens in front of a sellout crowd of 21,273 at Bell Centre.
``Why do we think it is OK to show up whenever we want and think the other team is going to lie down,'' said Laperriere, who grew up blocks from the old Forum. ``Especially here. This was awful, and it was unacceptable. And if we do not wake up there are going to be a lot more.''
After beating Ottawa on Friday to begin a five-game swing through Canada, the Kings were out of this one just 12 minutes in. The inspired play of goaltender Felix Potvin, defenseman Aaron Miller and rookie Mike Cammalleri against the Senators was gone less than 24 hours later, flushed away by two power-play goals by former King Yanic Perreault.
``It wasn't there at the beginning of the game, and that is a tough hole to climb out of,'' said Potvin, who faced just nine shots in the final two periods. ``This is a tough place to play, but we were flat and did not respond to the Canadiens until it was too late.''
If that sounds familiar to Kings fans, it should. Back in 1993, the Kings defeated Montreal in Game 1 of the Finals and led late in Game 2. That's when the Canadiens challenged the curve of Marty McSorley's stick and won, putting McSorley in the penalty box. Montreal tied the game on the power play and won in overtime.
Instead of heading back to L.A. with a 2-0 lead, the series was tied and the Kings never won again.
On Saturday, the Kings' fate was decided long before the final moments. But this game had a familiar ring. With less than six minutes to play, Kings coach Andy Murray challenged the stick of Canadiens defenseman Karl Dykhuis. They lost and were forced to send off a player for two minutes. Although Lubomir Visnovsky scored the Kings' only goal at the 17:48 mark, it was too little, too late.
``I did that because I wanted our players to know that the coaching staff was not going to give up until the game was over,'' Murray said of the challenge. ``That's why I pulled our goaltender with two minutes to play. I wanted to give us every chance to get back in the game.''
Instead, the Kings (7-5-2-1) move on to Toronto for Tuesday night's game at Air Canada Centre. They have dropped three of four and are 2-4-0-1 since leading scorer Jason Allison learned he will be out two to three months with a knee injury.
They have five games and two weeks remaining on this trip, their longest in 24 years. But that is just another excuse Murray doesn't want to hear.
``Three goals in their first nine shots of the game,'' he said. ``I think that says about all you need to know. That just can't happen.''
Perreault, who played five seasons with the Kings before his deadline trade to Toronto in March 1999, got his first goal with Visnovsky off for hooking Richard Zednik at 3:36 of the first. His second goal came after a bad hooking penalty on Dykhuis behind the Canadiens' net.
In between, Zednik, who had a career-high 22 goals last season, scored his seventh of the year after taking a pass in front from Marius Czerkawski.
The Kings nearly got within a goal with 1:41 remaining on a shot in front by Bryan Smolinski. But Montreal goaltender Jeff Hackett, playing in place of slumping league MVP Jose Theodore, made the stop and that was it.
Montreal goalie Jeff Hackett stops Kings forward Ziggy Palffy in the first period Saturday.
Andre Forget/Associated Press