The statistics did not bear out for Carey Price last season, but his teammates’ confidence has never wavered.
The Montreal Canadiens goaltender finished the abbreviated 2019-20 NHL season 38th in the NHL with a 2.79 goals-against average and 48th in save percentage at .909.
Long considered one of the league’s finest goaltenders, Price stood up to a high-octane Edmonton Oilers offense Saturday in a 5-1 road victory that was the first game of a back-to-back, and he could be called on again when the teams meet again Monday.
“It could have been a different game if we didn’t have him back there,” the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher said. “(The Oilers) have some great players and I thought we did a pretty decent job, but we have a pretty great one between the pipes to make those saves. He’s so calm, so cool, and that allows you to keep the momentum on your side.”
Price hasn’t registered much success against the Oilers over his career. Including Saturday’s effort, he has 4-9-1 record against Edmonton, a .872 save percentage and a 3.45 goals-against average.
He made 34 saves Saturday, including a big one on a Connor McDavid breakaway. The Canadiens were up only 1-0 late in the first period when McDavid stole the puck at the Oilers blue line to create a partial breakaway. Just before his shot, Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson reached out with a stick check and Price was able to make a save.
“Probably the best player in the world coming down on him, but you’re sitting on the bench and you just know he’s going to make the save,” Gallagher said.
Jeff Petry and Tomas Tatar handled the Canadiens’ scoring with two goals each. Jake Evans added one, while Phillip Danault and Gallagher each had two assists.
“We’re pretty confident with the depth that we have,” Gallagher said. “If we can hold each other accountable to show up and come at teams in waves like that … we can come at teams four lines deep. We feel like anyone who’s on the ice can get the job done.”
Left to figure out what has gone wrong, McDavid said the Oilers need to be better at the outset of games. Edmonton just wrapped up a back-to-back series in Vancouver, losing 5-3 to the Canucks on Wednesday before winning 5-2 on Thursday.
“Playing three games in three and a half days is a lot coming out the gate,” McDavid said. “But not making any excuses for ourselves, we have to be better. We have to win more battles. They were the more rested team and they showed that, but I don’t think our battle level was good enough.”
With McDavid limited to two shots on goal Saturday, the Oilers were shut down at every turn until Slater Koekkoek scored, spoiling Price’s shutout bid late in the third period.
“We had some chances, but once we got chasing the game, got loose, we made some mistakes that allowed them to expand the lead and we chased it the rest of the way,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said. “You’ve got to continue to pound away. You’ve got to find ways to win games. You’re going to do that with consistency in how you play.”
–Field Level Media