Like he has many times before, in one of the most exciting games of the season for the Montreal Canadiens, Carey Price found a way to steal the show once again.
Another Highlight-Reel Save From Price
Early into overtime, in a game against the National Hockey League’s top team in the Tampa Bay Lightning, Price made arguably the save of the year thus far. After a glove save off a Tyler Johnson wrist shot one minute into the extra frame, Price found himself sprawled out on the ice, leaving Ondrej Palat a rebound with the net completely open. However, in perfect Price fashion, he miraculously rolled his body over just in time for the shot to hit his stick and keep the Canadiens alive. The stop lifted a Bell Centre crowd that has had little to cheer for this season. Chants of “Carey” echoed throughout the building for what seemed like the remainder of the game.
After overtime was not enough to settle the battle between the Atlantic division rivals, Price stopped three shootout attempts from Tampa Bay’s most skilled forwards, (Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos) while Paul Byron scored on the Canadiens’ first attempt to secure a 2-1 win, their first in six games.
As incredible of an ending it was for the 30-year old goaltender, nobody in the Canadiens’ dressing room was surprised. They’ve seen Price do this before.
“The first save was incredible, and then the barrel-role save, I don’t really know what to say, I’m speechless,” said Byron following the win. “Every time you think you’ve seen it all from him, he goes out and does something even better.
The save on Palat was one of 44 for Price on the night. Only the NHL’s leader in goals and points, Kucherov, was able to score against the Habs’ netminder with a perfectly placed wrist shot glove side 1:04 into the second period. After that, it was lights out for the Lightning, whose offensive unit is one of the most dominant in the league. Despite another stellar performance, which Canadiens’ fans have become accustomed to, Price was just happy to get the much-needed win.
“I thought we played with a lot of composure out there,” said Price. “Right from the start of the game, we were making little plays and making good breakouts. I felt like we played with a lot of confidence tonight. We definitely would like to continue [playing] like that. I think that was definitely a great confidence booster.”
Pacioretty Ends Goal-less Streak
Lost in the mayhem of Thursday night’s contest was captain Max Pacioretty scoring his first goal in 13 games. Twenty seconds into the second period, Pacioretty intercepted a clearing attempt from the infamous rookie defenceman Mikhail Sergachev and rifled a shot top-shelf over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s glove hand to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead. Pacioretty, despite not showing any emotion after the goal, was pleased to have finally found the back of the net after what seemed like a never-ending slump.
“It was pretty decent,” said Pacioretty, who also recorded five shots on goal, two hits, and one block in just over 17 minutes of ice-time.
It was the 40th game played of the season for Sergachev, who was traded away from the Canadiens in exchange for Jonathan Drouin on June 15, 2017. This means that Montreal will not surrender a second-round pick in the 2018 Entry Draft, as it was a conditional selection that would be removed from the deal if the former ninth-overall pick played in that many contests this season.
The win improves the Canadiens’ record to 17-20-4 with exactly half the season left to play. While the team remains far out of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference (12 points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic, and eight points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the final wild-card spot), Thursday night’s defeat of the Lightning presents the Canadiens with a great starting position to begin their climb back into contention. It will take many more wins, and many more Carey Price strong performances to do so, but as long as there’s still a chance, Montreal will continue to battle.
“The win proves that we’re able to compete with good teams when we go out and compete,” said head coach Claude Julien. “Now the big test is how can we go out again and compete like this. It has to become second nature. The players have to become accustomed to playing like this, and if we do that, we will for sure be a better team.”