The victory kept Los Angeles tied for the Pacific Division lead with the Anaheim Ducks, who come to Staples Center for a Saturday matinee against their Southern California rivals after tying a franchise record with their 10th straight victory Thursday night at Arizona.
The Ducks trailed the Kings by 15 points on January 2, and beat them decisively 4-2 last Sunday in Anaheim with a hat trick by Corey Perry.
"It's going to be the biggest game of the year, and everybody knows that going in," King said. "We know what's on the line, so it's going to be pretty much playoff hockey. They've been on a hot streak as of late. Ten wins in a row is an impressive feat, and that's probably where they made up a lot of ground. But we can make amends on Saturday."
Jonathan Quick finished with 13 saves in the opener of a five-game homestand. He handed the Canadiens their only shutout loss of the season on Dec. 17, making a season-high 45 saves in a 3-0 victory.
"We would have liked to generate a little more offence, but we worked hard and gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game," Subban said. "They play a hard, heavy game. They forecheck hard and make it tough on you coming out of your zone."
Ben Scrivens stopped 28 shots in his 10th start for Montreal. The five-year veteran spent the first three months of the 2013-14 campaign with the Kings, winning five of his first seven decisions with three shutouts before finishing that season with Edmonton.
On his first shift, Montreal captain Max Pacioretty took a run at defenceman Jake Muzzin in the right corner of the Kings' end and missed. His skate broke, and play continued while Pacioretty struggled to get back to the bench. Kopitar then tipped in Alec Martinez's screened slap shot from just inside the blue line for his 19th goal just 56 seconds after the opening faceoff.
"Yeah, my blade came out, but they said they can't blow the whistle until we have possession of the puck," Pacioretty said. "Unfortunately, we never got possession of the puck."
Pearson made it 2-0 at 3:33 of the first. The Kings are 11-0-0 when Pearson scores a goal.
"It was obviously a tough mental challenge," Scrivens said. "They came out focused and they executed well early on. Their goals came on well-executed plays, and it took us a little bit to get into the game."
The Canadiens, who went almost 10 minutes before getting their first shot on net, got on the board at 18:32 of the first when Subban beat Quick to the stick side with a 45-foot slap shot after a turnover in the Kings' zone
But Subban coughed up the puck at the red line with the Habs pressing for the tying goal, and King went in alone on Scrivens before beating him between the pads with 14:44 remaining for a 3-1 lead. The goal helped the Kings end a string of eight consecutive games in which they scored no more than two.
"It's a step in the right direction, but obviously the win is the only thing that matters," King said. "Tonight we threw everything at the net and got rewarded a few times. We had a couple of lapses, but we started really strong."
NOTES: Kris Versteeg made his Kings debut following Sunday's trade with Carolina, playing RW on a line with Jeff Carter and Pearson. ... Thursday was the 48th anniversary of Jean Beliveau's 1,000 NHL point, which made him the second player to reach that total along with Gordie Howe. There are now 83 players who have totalled at least 1,000 points. ... Pacioretty is one of only two players in the league with at least one shot on net in every one of his team's games. The other is Vancouver LW Daniel Sedin. ... The Kings have allowed a league-low 144 goals. ... Nineteen of Montreal's last 21 goals have been scored at even-strength.