MONTREAL – Rookie Martin Jones is already making a little Kings history.
In Los Angeles’s 6-0 thumping of the Canadiens on Tuesday night, Jones became the first Kings goaltender to ever record a shutout against Montreal.
And he did it in just his third career NHL game. Jones is now 3-0 with a 0.65 goals-against-average and a .973 save percentage. The shutout was also his second in as many nights.
“Maybe I didn’t expect to get that kind of start, but I don’t want to stop here,” said Jones. “I want to make sure I keep working. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We’re playing some good teams.”
The 23-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., earned his first win in his NHL debut last Tuesday, beating the Anaheim Ducks after a nine-round shootout. He followed up by making 16 saves to blank the New York Islanders on Saturday.
“It’s been nice to get wins in different ways,” said Jones. “That’s the sign of a good team, we get wins in different situations.”
Jones got the start in Montreal in place of Ben Scrivens, who leads the league in save percentage. And Scrivens is normally backup goaltender to Jonathan Quick, who’s out with a groin injury. With Quick expected back in a couple of weeks, Jones’ performance could force head coach Darryl Sutter to make a tough decision down the road.
“Whenever I’m called upon, they’re going to get my best,” said Jones.
They got his best on Tuesday at the Bell Centre, where Jones stopped all 30 shots he faced, including a seven-shot opening game flurry with the Canadiens on the power play.
“If Jones wasn’t making the saves he was making, it could have been a completely different ball game right off the start,” said Anze Kopitar, who rewarded his netminder with a goal late in the first period, his ninth of the year.
“He came up big for us. That game could have gone the complete opposite way.”
L.A.’s (20-7-4) victory extended its winning streak to four games, snapping Montreal’s 10-game point streak in the process. The Canadiens (19-10-3) hadn’t lost in regulation since Nov. 16, when they were beaten 1-0 by the New York Rangers. They came into Tuesday’s game on an 11-1-2 run in which they hadn’t conceded more than three goals in a game.
But they conceded six on the Kings’ 30 shots. Carey Price, whose save percentage dipped to .934 after the game, made 12 saves on 16 shots and was pulled midway through the second frame. His replacement Peter Budaj didn’t fare much better, allowing two goals on 14 shots.
“These games are miserable,” said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges. “The only thing you can do is get out of this room here, take a look in the mirror, and ask yourself, ‘Did I do what I was supposed to do tonight?’ There’s not one guy in this room that can say that he did.
“We have to understand that this is how hard it is in this league. We have to use it as motivation going forward.”
The Canadiens came out of the gate with intense pressure, but couldn’t find an answer to Jones’s stellar play.
Jordan Nolan opened the scoring for Los Angeles at 7:03 of the first period, jumping on a big rebound after a Willie Mitchell shot from the blue-line bounced off of Price’s pads and landed on Nolan’s stick.
Kopitar added to the lead with only 13 seconds remaining in the period, catching Price out of position after winning the faceoff to his right.
“We had a quick huddle just before the faceoff,” said Kopitar. “We didn’t draw it up quite as good as we executed, but we’ll take it.
“That was obviously a big momentum changer.”
The Kings opened the second period ready to build on that momentum. Alec Martinez scored early in the period after Montreal defender Alexei Emelin lost the puck in his skates in front of the net.
Tyler Toffoli put the Kings ahead 4-0 at 5:28, firing home a big rebound past a sprawling Price, who was pulled after the goal.
Jake Muzzin added to the lead on the power play at 8:14, and Justin Williams made it 6-0 with his team-leading 11th goal at 18:28.
Jones was thankful his team did what they could to preserve his shutout bid late in the game.
“The guys didn’t stop playing even though we had that six-goal lead,” said Jones. “Guys continued to block shots and get in lanes, and take away sticks in front of the net.”
Notes: L.A. hadn’t beaten the Canadiens in seven encounters dating back to March 2003. The Kings’ last win in Montreal was in 1999.…Francis Bouillon was back in the lineup after missing six of the last 10 games as a healthy scratch. Bouillon got the nod in place of Douglas Murray.