MONTREAL – Lars Eller can breathe easy now that his lengthy offensive drought is finally over.
Eller scored his first goal as a Canadien while Andrei Kostitsyn had a goal and an assist as Montreal beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 Wednesday night.
“It was a relief, a great feeling and I don’t really know how to explain it,” said Eller, who scored in his 21st game as a Hab. “There’s a lot of things that are more important though, it’s not the priority.”
Eller said it was one of the longest scoring droughts he’s ever been through.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gone 20 games without a goal but it’s just good to be contributing,” he said.
Montreal opened the scoring with a goal on their first power play opportunity of the night. After Anze Kopitar missed a short-handed chance, Kostitsyn broke out of the zone quickly and snapped one past Jonathan Bernier.
Bernier, a native of Laval, Que., had a tough debut at the Bell Centre. He was beat four times on 35 shots.
“It’s going to be a year about learning. If things go well, or they don’t, you learn from it,” Bernier said. “Obviously for me this was a big thing, I appreciated the game but I just approached it like any other.”
Carey Price was solid in goal for Montreal, stopping 24 shots in his league-leading 21st start of the season. It was also his league-best 13th win.
“Our guys definitely wanted to play a solid game and didn’t want to have a repeat performance of last game,” Price said.
Montreal went up by two before the end of the first period. After good puck movement during a four-on-four, Mike Cammalleri fired a point shot past Bernier who was being screened by Scott Gomez.
Gomez picked up a point on the play, his first in four games. The goal was originally credited to Gomez, who told the referees and Cammalleri that it never touched him.
“It’s nice to get Scott going, and that shows you his class,” Cammalleri said. “The goals haven’t been coming easy, but he’s been working hard.”
Gomez said personal statistics aren’t worrying him at the moment.
“We’re winning hockey games, it’s all about winning, that’s how I was raised,” Gomez said. “I’ve got to get better but at the same time we got two points.”
The Kings pulled within one to start the second period on their first power play. A Justin Williams point shot bounced right to Alec Martinez, who put the puck into an open net for his first career NHL goal in his game of the season.
Before being called up Tuesday, Martinez led the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs in scoring.
Just 2:19 after the Kings scored, Gionta collected a rebound from a Kostitsyn shot and slipped the puck to Tomas Plekanec, who beat Bernier.
Eller put the Canadiens up by three getting the puck in the slot, spinning and firing past Bernier.
It was Eller’s first goal since coming to Montreal from St. Louis in an off-season trade that sent goaltender Jaroslav Halak to the Blues.
Montreal had a two-goal lead heading into the second period, but Los Angeles pulling within one early in the second. The Canadiens were worried the game was reminiscent of Montreal’s 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia on Monday night, where the Habs coughed up an early lead.
“Not again, I think I said those words,” said Cammalleri.
Instead, Montreal regained the two-goal edge on Plekanec’s goal, and Kings coach Terry Murray was lamenting his club’s inability to tie the game.
“That’s something that keeps happening to us, we got to get better and figure that all out,” Murray said.
Montreal went 1-for-3 on the power play but looked dangerous every time out. They also went killed off two of three penalties with their top ranked penalty kill.
Notes: Mathieu Darche was back in the lineup for Montreal after being a healthy scratch for two games. Dustin Boyd and Yannick Weber were healthy scratches for the Canadiens. Brayden Schenn and Kevin Westgarth sat out for Los Angeles. Willie Mitchell has missed 8 games with a wrist injury.