The penalty-killing unit killed another opportunity for the slumping Kings to hold a lead and win a game Thursday night.
It's getting to be the formula for defeat: Gain a lead, lose a lead, press and commit penalties, allow opponents to score on a power play. The Kings let the Montreal Canadiens (7-3-3) score on three power plays, and the Stanley Cup champions won, 6-4, before 9,561 fans at the Forum.
It was reminiscent of the three power-play goals the Kings gave up to the Calgary Flames in their 4-2 loss Monday night, and the result lowered Los Angeles' record to 3-10-1.
"We should have won at least five games," King defenseman Larry Playfair said.
What was a cohesive and effective penalty-killing unit has gone the way of the rest of the team: Almost straight to the bottom of the league.
"You can't blame the loss on the penalty-killing team," King center Bernie Nicholls said. "They (the Canadiens) have a heck of a power play."
Oddly, Montreal's power play is ranked 11th in the league, two notches behind the Kings' power play.
"It hurt us," Coach Pat Quinn of the Kings said. "They have terrific shooters on the point. We knew we would have to stop them."
In their usual fashion, the Kings stopped Montreal for a while before blowing a 4-2 lead.
The Kings still held a 4-3 edge going into the third period but leads have been a precarious and delicate commodity for the Kings this season.
That one-goal margin didn't last three minutes into the final period.
While King defenseman Grant Ledyard lingered in the Montreal zone, hoping to intercept a pass, Chris Nilan and Bobby Smith took off, with Nilan carrying the puck into the King zone.
Ledyard trailed the play, and Playfair was left alone to defend King goaltender Darren Eliot and the lead. Nilan passed to Smith to tie the score at 4-4.
Montreal scored again as Stephane Richer took the puck into the King zone, behind the net. He swung out on the right side and slid a blind pass into the slot, where Sergio Momesso was waiting. That proved to be the winning goal.
Smith got his first hat trick as a Canadien, scoring an empty-net goal with 51 seconds left after the Kings had pulled Eliot at 18:43.
The Kings stunned the Canadiens in the second period with a disciplined defense and a furious offense. Los Angeles scored four goals in the period, while allowing Montreal only one.
Ledyard scored early in the period. He was hovering at the Montreal blue line while King forwards were blasting shots at Canadien goaltender Patrick Roy. The defenseman picked up a deflected puck and scored on a slap shot.
Nicholls scored 36 seconds later at 5:07 to tie the score at 2-2. Nicholls then scored again, off a pass from Jay Wells at 9:58, to give the Kings a 3-2 lead.
Jim Fox got his sixth goal of the season after he picked up a loose puck and scored to give the Kings a 4-2 lead.
The Kings were pushed around in the first period by the bigger, more aggressive Montreal team. The Kings helped by giving Montreal four power-play chances, and the Canadiens scored on two.
Smith scored the first one on a slap shot from the blue line. Before that, the Kings' penalty-killing unit had cleared the puck well.
They had trouble, however, clearing Montreal's Ryan Walter out of the crease. The left wing could not be budged by any King defender. Neither could anyone get rid of Claude Lemieux.
"That's their job, to stay in there and take a beating," Playfair said. "We tried to clear the front of the net."
But they couldn't. Walter capitalized on his positioning on the Canadiens' third power play as he tipped a shot by Gaston Gingras into the goal.
King wings Phil Sykes and Bryan Erickson had been given medical approval to play Thursday night but were not dressed. They are expected to be available Saturday night against Hartford. . . . Montreal forwards Guy Carbonneau and Chris Nilan played their first games since being suspended for missing the Canadiens' 1 a.m. curfew. . . . The last time goaltender Darren Eliot won at home was March 16, 1985 in an 8-3 victory over Detroit.