In the Habs’ Room: Rust, lack of execution spell doom vs. Kings

Sports

“I can’t say the guys didn’t compete, didn’t go out and try, but it doesn’t look good when you’re not executing,” coach Claude Julien said.

Canadiens' Artturi Lehkonen tries to squeeze past Los Kings' Derek Forbort to get to puck in front of goaltender Jack Campbell Thursday night at the Bell Centre.

Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen tries to squeeze past Los Kings’ Derek Forbort to get to puck in front of goaltender Jack Campbell Thursday night at the Bell Centre. Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette

The Canadiens had plenty of time to rest and prepare for Thursday night’s home opener against the Los Angeles Kings?

Too much time, perhaps?

That was coach Claude Julien’s suggestion when he said his team looked rusty in their 3-0 loss to the Kings.

“There was no doubt we were rusty,” said Julien. “Where we were used to making one or two passes to get out of our own end, there were pucks in the skates or weren’t on the tape. It was a little tougher night tonight.

“I can’t say the guys didn’t compete, didn’t go out and try, but it doesn’t look good when you’re not executing the way you should. That’s the way I saw the game tonight.”

Quite simply, this was a game in which the Canadiens failed to take advantage of their opportunities. They fell behind 2-0 in the first period and their chances of coming back evaporated in the second period when they had three consecutive power plays and managed only one shot on net. The power play was 0-for-4 on the night with four shots on goal,

‘When we have opportunities like that, we have to capitalize and we came up a little bit short tonight,” Max Domi said. “We got a couple of good looks, but we were too much on the perimeter, we didn’t get inside into those dirty areas and that’s where the goals are scored.”

The Canadiens had 40 shots on goal and Jack Campbell, who is taking full advantage of his opportunity to start since Jonathan Quick was injured, had to make some big saves. But there were too many shots that were from far away and there was nobody in front to take the goalie’s eyes away or to find a rebound.

“You need those second opportunities inside (and), we didn’t get enough of those,” Julien said. “Their defence did a great job, boxing us out or clearing the rebound. Could we have done a better job? Absolutely, otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here with a 3-0 loss. Sometimes, you have give the other team credit but at the same time, we could have been better. We weren’t on top of our game tonight.”

If some of that sounds familiar, there were similar laments last season when the Canadians ranked 29th in offence and were shut out 12 times.

The Kings did get players in front and that helped put pucks in the net. Adrian Kempe scored off a rush, but Michael Amadio beat Carey Price from the slot and Price was screened when Jeff Carter scored in the third period.

The positives?

The Kings failed to score on three power plays and managed only one shot with the extra man. The Canadiens ranked 29th on the penalty kill last season and have given up only one power-play goal in their first three games.

Noah Juulsen played his best game of the season and was given one of the three stars. He delivered seven hits and blocked three shots.

And we can’t forget Jesperi Kotkamieni, whose confidence grows with each game. He’s beginning to look for scoring opportunities and fired five shots at net.

When asked if someone told him to shoot more, he flashed a grin and said: “My mother.”

“That’s a joke,” he quickly added.

He said the extra work he’s devoted to faceoffs is paying off and he’s up to a 48.2 per cent success rate after winning six of 11 faceoffs against the Kings.

His one faux pas?

He can expect another reminder from Julien to keep his stick down. He took a hooking penalty. It was his third such infraction in the past two games.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

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