MONTREAL — The Canadiens might have lost more than just the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals to the New York Rangers. Montreal goalie Carey Price was pulled from the blowout after two periods, and perhaps in part because of an injury.
With the Rangers leading by two goals, Price was run into early in the second period of New York’s 7-2 victory on Saturday.
At 3:15 of the second, New York forward Chris Kreider blew past defenseman Alexei Emelin on a breakaway but then lost his balance as he shot the puck. He missed the net and slid skate-first into Price.
Price stayed down on the ice for several seconds, clutching his right leg, and was visibly shaken when he finally got up. He spoke to a member of the team’s medical staff but remained in the game. Price allowed two more goals as the Rangers grabbed a 4-1 lead before the second intermission.
He watched the third period from the bench.
”There was no reason to put Carey back in the third,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. ”It was just to protect him. You never want to see your goaltender spread out on the ice. But the fact that he didn’t play in the third period is unrelated.”
Therrien and several Canadiens players were convinced Kreider’s hit on Price was accidental. There was no penalty called on the play.
”It wasn’t really sitting for me, so I had my head down trying to settle the puck,” said Kreider, who scored the winning goal late in the second period. ”I put it wide and somehow lost my footing. I thought maybe someone pressured me from behind. I seem to have an issue staying on my feet on those.
”I went in skates-first, and I just had too much momentum and couldn’t really avoid him. It didn’t feel too good for me, either.”
Despite brushing off any injury concerns, Therrien refused to answer whether Price would get the start in Game 2 of the series on Monday.
”The fact that he didn’t play in the third period was more to protect him than anything,” Therrien repeated. ”We were not sharp in front of him.”
Price gave up four goals on 20 shots after two periods, including two in less than a minute to end the second period, lowering his post-season save percentage from .926 to .919.
However, the discussion was more about Price’s collision than the amount of pucks that got past him.
”You don’t want to see that,” said Rene Bourque, who brought the Canadiens within 2-1 in the second period. ”Intentional? I don’t think so. He’s our best player. It was scary to see. Hopefully he’s all right.”
Montreal’s frustration showed at the start of the third. The Canadiens took four minor penalties in the first three minutes, and the Rangers welcomed backup Peter Budaj into the game with three power-play goals on their first four shots.
Before this game, the Rangers had scored eight goals in their last 10 games in Montreal, dating to October 2009. This season, Montreal and New York combined for four goals in three regular-season matchups.