Price makes 39 saves, Canadiens top Canucks 4-1
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)
Montreal's Carey Price doesn't the want the Canadiens' win against Vancouver and the Canucks' Roberto Luongo to be used as a measuring stick in the competition for the starting goalie job on the Canadian Olympic team at the Sochi Games.
Price made 39 saves and Lars Eller got credit for a bizarre short-handed winner in the Canadiens' 4-1 win Saturday night. Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges also scored for Montreal, and Raphael Diaz added two assists.
Luongo, who led Canada to the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, finished with 34 saves.
''It's our team against their team, doesn't matter who is playing net for them,'' Price said. ''Everybody is trying to twist this another way.
''All it was is two hockey teams playing against each other.''
Still, Price - who grew up in Anahim Lake - left his mark while playing in his home province as Montreal led 2-1 after two periods despite giving up 31 shots and numerous scoring chances.
''Wow,'' Eller said of his teammate. ''It's probably the best hockey I've seen him play, and that says a lot. He kept us in the game. I don't know how.
''Halfway through, two periods through, he was the single reason that we were even this game. Unbelievable performance.''
Henrik Sedin had the only goal for Vancouver, and Luongo also stopped Pacioretty on a penalty shot in the third period.
''Carey Price is having a good start with the team. Tonight he was outstanding,'' said Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien. ''Certainly it was extra motivation to come here and play in front of his family and friends. I'm really happy for him that he was able to play that way. He was in the zone.''
The winner came on a strange sequence in the second period with the Canadiens killing a penalty. Canucks defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Jason Garrison got tangled up behind the Vancouver net on a breakout, with the puck caroming into the crease and off both of Luongo's skates before dribbling over the line at 16:12.
''I didn't see it. I didn't see it,'' a frustrated Luongo said. ''They didn't show it on the Jumbotron, I didn't see it. You guys tell me what happened.''
Asked if he'd ever given up a more bizarre game-winner, Luongo shot back: ''I didn't give that up, so I can't tell you.''
Added Hamhuis: ''I was picking up the puck and it just clipped off (Garrison's) skate and ended up in (Luongo's) feet and in the net. It's a tough break.''
Eller, who wasn't even in the Canucks zone at the time of the goal, was the last Canadiens player to touch the puck for a Montreal team that didn't score a short-handed at all last season or through the first four games of 2013-14.
Apart from that bizarre play, the story for a lot of the game was Price and Luongo, with the pair matching each other save for save at times.
Down 2-1 after Eller's goal late in the second period, Luongo held the Canucks in it early in the third, including a stick save on Pacioretty's penalty-shot attempt after the Canadiens' forward was hooked down by Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
However, Montreal extended the lead at 6:46 on the power play. P.K. Subban just held the puck in at the line and it eventually found its way to fellow defenseman Andrei Markov down low, who fed a wide open Plekanec.
Canucks coach John Tortorella has been preaching a shoot-from-anywhere mentality, but his team failed to test Price until Bieska's effort from outside the Montreal blue line with nearly 11 minutes gone in the period.
''We didn't play a good third period,'' said Tortorella, who's team was outshot 18-9 in the final 20 minutes. ''Whether it was a result of (the Eller goal), I don't know. Up until that point, I thought we played a really good hockey game.
''We talked about that wasn't going to beat us, but we certainly didn't play a good third period.''
Gorges then made it 4-1 with a shot through traffic that Luongo didn't see, much to the delight of the large contingent of Canadiens fans in attendance at Rogers Arena.
Leading 1-0 after the first, Price made a number of stops on a Vancouver power play six minutes into the second period.
''(Price) made some saves where I think a lot of people in the building thought it was going to be goals,'' Sedin said. ''We can't get too down, we played good enough to win, but we weren't able to finish off.''
The Canucks kept up the pressure and were rewarded a bit later on when the Canadiens couldn't get the puck out of their zone. Daniel Sedin picked up a rebound at the side of the net and fed a blind behind-the-back pass to Henrik Sedin, who scored his first of the season - and 799th point of his career - at 13:12 to tie the score.
But it all went downhill for the Canucks exactly three minutes later with Eller's score.
Pacioretty drew a hooking penalty on Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev early in the first period before making Vancouver pay on the man advantage. The forward took a pass in the slot and fired a shot through Luongo's pads that just dribbled across the line to make it 1-0.
The goal was the first surrendered by the Canucks' penalty-killing unit this season after starting a perfect 18 for 18 through five games.
Price was the story for much of the rest of the opening 20 minutes, with a big rebound stop on Garrison on a Canucks' power play midway through the period. He then made a desperation save on Daniel Sedin with five minutes to go, which brought chants of ''Carey, Carey'' from Canadiens fans.
NOTES: The Canadiens were without captain Brain Gionta because of what the team called ''family reasons.'' ... Canucks D Alexander Edler served the first game of a three-game suspension for his hit to the head of San Jose's Tomas Hertl on Thursday night. ... Canucks F Zack Kassian returned to the lineup after serving his eight-game suspension for breaking the jaw of Edmonton's Sam Gagner with a high stick in the preseason.