Quinton Byfield says he’s playing with confidence, and it’s showing.
Byfield scored twice, Cam Talbot earned a shut out and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 Thursday at Bell Centre to set an NHL record for longest road winning streak to start a season.
The 21-year-old Byfield, who also had an assist, continued his breakout season after a slow start to his career. The 2020 second-overall pick is up to eight goals and 13 helpers through 23 games.
“The confidence is there right now,” Byfield explained as to why he’s found a rhythm in his fourth season.
Kings head coach Todd McLellan gave credit where it was due.
“I keep giving credit to his linemates and stuff that have pulled him along, but a lot of it came from him too, and he’s done an outstanding job,” said McLellan. “He looked like a dominant player. Not just tonight, but in a lot of games so far this year.”
Byfield’s performance helped the Kings (16-4-3) improve to 11-0-0 away from home.
The record for most consecutive road wins at any point of a season is 12.
“Normally we’re downplaying achievements, talking about getting to the next game, but I think that we have to acknowledge the group has played really well,” said McLellan. “I thought we played a little bit of playoff-type hockey.
“Down the stretch we blocked shots, we managed the clock, we played pucks into areas when we had to, made pretty smart decisions.”
Drew Doughty, with a goal and an assist, and Trevor Moore also scored for Los Angeles. Captain Anze Kopitar had three assists and Talbot made 24 saves.
Montreal (11-12-3) was held off the scoresheet by the Kings for a second time this season. The Canadiens also lost 4-0 in Los Angeles on Nov. 25, but felt they had a better showing on Thursday.
“I thought we played a lot better than we did in L.A.,” said Montreal captain Nick Suzuki. “(We) hit I don’t know how many posts, had a lot of scoring chances, once you go down to a team that plays like that, it’s hard to get through their trap. They made it difficult on us to come back.”
Samuel Montembeault stopped 38 shots in his second consecutive start. It was the first time a Canadiens goalie started two consecutive games since Jake Allen on Oct. 21 and 23.
The Kings went 1-for-1 on the power play. The Canadiens were 0-for-3.
Doughty opened the scoring at 8:13 of the first period but the Canadiens outshot the Kings 13-11 in the opening frame and had a number of scoring chances that Talbot turned away.
“We needed him in the first period,” said McLellan. “It’s hard when you’re on the road in a building like this (with) a pretty good hockey club.”
Byfield buried his first of the night at 17:46 by cutting hard to the net, fending off Canadiens defenceman Kaiden Guhle and tucking the puck past Montembeault’s left pad for a pretty goal.
“Big man, deceiving speed, good hands, turn the corner,” said McLellan. “Pretty impressive goal.”
In the second, the Canadiens’ power-play struggles continued as they failed to capitalize on a 4-on-3 opportunity early in the period.
Byfield converted on L.A.’s first chance on the man advantage at 18:15 with a shot into an open cage from the side of the net after Kopitar tipped a pass from the point onto his tape.
“He’s been playing great all year,” Kopitar said of his linemate. “I’m obviously very happy to see him getting rewarded and just getting his confidence up and the way he’s playing.”
The Kings then started suffocating the Canadiens with a defensive trap, outshot the Canadiens 16-4 in the third period and put the game well out of reach with a breakaway goal from Moore.
“Unfortunately when you’re chasing the game in the third period, you’re probably not doing the same thing you would do in a close game,” said Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis. “You got to try to manufacture something at that point so you’re taking a little more risk, but it’s not an easy defensive scheme to take risk against.”
Kings: Play their third of a four-game road trip on Saturday at the New York Islanders.
Canadiens: Visit the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.