Montreal Canadiens right wing Andrei Kostitsyn, center, of Belarus, celebrates his goal with teammates center Louis Leblanc, left, and defenseman P.K. Subban during the second period of their NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Montreal coach Jacques Martin issued a challenge during the second intermission and the Canadiens responded.
Carey Price made 26 saves and Montreal beat the short-handed Los Angeles Kings 2-1 on Saturday to end a four-game losing streak. The Canadiens improved to 8-0-2 when leading after two periods.
"Going into the third period up 2-1, we really tested ourselves today," defenceman P.K. Subban said. "Coach came in and said: 'Hey, listen, you guys have control of the game. We need these two points, so it's up to you.' And I thought guys made the right choice in terms of putting the team first. We limited their shots and their quality opportunities—and even when they did have them, we regained our focus and got into the shooting lanes and blocked a lot of shots."
Subban took a gamble in the final minute when he chopped down on Jarret Stoll's stick right after a faceoff deep in the Montreal end and broke it in two—right in front of referees Dennis LaRue and Kyle Rehman. But no slashing penalty was called.
Erik Cole did the same thing to Kings defenceman Jack Johnson late in the second period, but didn't get away with it.
"It's a hard play," Subban said. "There's not much time left, (Stoll) was already down on the ice and our centreman (David Desharnais) had already stepped on his stick. Then I put my stick down and it broke. But I was just trying to get the puck."
Stoll, who won 17-of-22 faceoffs, was understandably upset over the way the game ended.
"It's a penalty in any game, any month, this year," Stoll said. "They missed it. I'll watch what I say, but there's two refs out there. They've got to make that call. I had a conversation with one of them earlier in the game about it—about a slash that I had when I didn't break the guy's stick, and he tells me straight up that if the stick breaks, it's a penalty. And I'm like, 'I know, that's the way you've called it all year.' It's tough that we didn't get the call."
Dustin Penner scored for Los Angeles and Jonathan Bernier made 25 saves in his fifth start of the season.
Penner missed nine games because of a broken finger and was inserted back in the lineup after Mike Richards was placed in injured reserve with a head injury that occurred in Thursday's 2-1 victory over Florida. Defenceman Davis Drewiske played his second game of the season in place of Willie Mitchell, who sustained a lower body injury on his first shift on Thursday.
"They've still got a great lineup and some great players over there," Montreal captain Brian Gionta said. "Everybody deals with injuries, so you just prepare the same way as you would for anybody else who was playing for them."
The Kings have lost seven straight times to the Canadiens since a 2-1 home victory on March 8, 2003. The only current Montreal player who was on the Habs' roster that night was Andre Markov, who hasn't played since Nov. 13, 2010, because of torn ligaments in his right knee.
Montreal led 1-0 after one period despite being outshot 14-5. The Canadiens killed off three power plays, including a 5-on-3 advantage Los Angeles had for 39 seconds, then cashed in the first time they went on the power play.
Bernier stopped Yannick Weber's wrist shot from the left point, but Andrei Kostitsyn got the rebound with his back to the net and set up Tomas Plekanec in the left circle for a 45-foot wrist shot while Kings captain Dustin Brown was off for tripping. The goal ended an 0-for-24 drought by Montreal on the power play, and a string of 24 successful penalty kills by Los Angeles.
The Habs increased the margin to 2-0 on a critical turnover by the Kings that resulted in Kostitsyn's goal at 10:48 of the second. Defenceman Matt Green fell down trying to keep the puck in the Montreal zone at the right point, and Louis Leblanc took off with it. He passed to Kostitsyn, who completed a picture-perfect give-and-go with Lars Eller by beating Bernier with a 35-foot slap shot to the glove side.
"We were quick to jump on that play, and we made a good play," Eller said. "When you're coming into the zone 3-on-2 and you've got Andre on your right side, you want to give the puck to him because, with that shot he has, chances are he's going to score from that position. It was all him."
Penner got the Kings on the board less than three minutes later, parking himself in the low slot and redirecting Drew Doughty's long slap shot between Price's pads for his first goal of the season with 11 seconds left on Cole's interference penalty.
Stoll received a delayed penalty for goalie interference at 4:51 of the third, nullifying a goal by Johnson that would have tied it.
Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty finished serving the three-game suspension he received for hitting Pittsburgh's Kris Letang in the head with his shoulder during Montreal's 4-3 overtime loss last Saturday, leaving Letang with a broken nose.
NOTES: Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier told reporters before the game that Markov will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, delaying his return once again. ... The Kings' next victory will make Terry Murray the 17th NHL coach with 500 regular-season wins and tie him with Toe Blake, who guided the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cup titles in a 13-year span from 1956 through 1968. ... Montreal LW Michael Cammalleri, who spent his first five seasons with the Kings and led them with 80 points in 2006-07, has three goals and three assists in six games against them since getting traded to Calgary in June 2008. ... The Kings have never shut out Montreal in 135 meetings during the regular season and five others in the playoffs. They are 5-16-0 with one tie against the Canadiens since losing to them in the 1993 Stanley Cup finals.