Los Angeles Kings 4, Montreal Canadiens 3
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Bryan Smolinski snapped a third-period tie with his 22nd goal as the Los Angeles Kings inched closer to a playoff spot with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
Smolinski, whose status for the game was questionable due to a rib injury, got the game-winner after Los Angeles squandered a 3-0 lead and Martin Rucinsky tied it for Montreal with a shorthanded goal early in the third period. Glen Murray skated down the left side, worked his way toward the top of the left faceoff circle and fired a slap shot that hit the skate of defenseman Patrick Traverse. But Smolinski got to the lose puck at the left side, and swept it past goaltender Jose Theodore at 5:39.
"It was a big goal by them, but they didn't take the lead," said Smolinski, who has a small cartilage tear. "We just had to keep playing. (My goal) was probably the biggest of the game." Rucinsky knotted it just under two minutes earlier while killing a high-sticking penalty to teammate Trevor Linden. Coming down on a 2-on-1, Saku Koivu made a no-look pass to Rucinsky on at his left. Rucinsky got off a quick shot that beat goalie Felix Potvin for his 11th goal.
"We had a 2-on-1. Koivu faked a shot and had a great pass. He is such a good playmaker. I had a half-empty net," Rucinsky said. "(Erasing a three-goal deficit) was one positive thing from this game for us. But it wasn't enough. We just have to be ready for the next game." Nelson Emerson, Murray and rookie Lubomir Visnovsky also tallied for the Kings, who are three points behind Edmonton for the final Western Conference playoff berth. They are 5-1-1 in the last seven games.
"We can't worry about who is ahead of us right now in the standings. We need to keep on winning, picking up points," Smolinski said. "This was an ugly game," added Los Angeles coach Andy Murray. "But to get a win at this point right now, having 70 points, is what we wanted before the game. And that is what we have right now. We talked about a little bit afterwards, we got the two points we came for and we'll talk tomorrow about some of the other things. We can do better to get 72 points on Thursday."
Los Angeles played without center Jozef Stumpel and newly acquired right wing Adam Deadmarsh. Stumpel has a fractured rib and is out indefinitely and Deadmarsh is expected to miss at least one more game with a right hand contusion. Potvin made 22 saves and improved to 5-2-1 since being acquired from Vancouver on February 15.
"Potvin was outstanding, making key saves for the Kings," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "He had some breaks tonight. It was the type of game when you don't have the breaks, it is tough to win. One thing I like with my team, even 3-0, they still fight. We worked hard to come back in the game but we came up short." Rookie Xavier Delisle and Patrice Brisebois scored power-play goals and Theodore made 21 saves for Montreal, which had a three-game winning streak stopped.
"Making the playoffs, we're far behind and it's going to be tough," Therrien said. "We try to establish things for next year -- the way the guys are working, the way they play our system because we want to be ready for next year." Emerson opened the scoring 35 seconds into the first of Los Angeles' three-game homestand with a slap shot from the slot that went over Theodore's glove.
The Kings took a 2-0 lead on Glen Murray's 15th goal at 11:41. Visnovsky's blast from the top of the right circle hit defenseman Karl Dykhuis on the leg and came out to the left side, where Murray put it past Theodore. "It was just a 5-on-3 and the puck bounced right to me," Murray said. "It was good to go up 2-0. We just need to win our games, not worry about what everybody else is doing."
Visnovsky added his sixth goal 53 seconds into the second period, taking a pass from Luc Robitaille at the right point and wristing a shot from the top of the slot by Theodore, who was screened by Linden. Delisle got the Canadiens within two goals at 5:25 of the second. He emerged from a scrum with the puck in front of the Kings' net and pushed it in past Potvin for his third goal.
Brisebois' 10th of the season sliced Montreal's deficit to one goal with 2:21 left in the second. He got a pass from fellow defenseman Sheldon Souray at the left point and his wrist shot from the top of the slot got past a screened Potvin. "(Brisebois) played very well for us," Therrien said. "He's our leader in the defensive way and tonight, again, he had a strong game."