After watching Lars Eller taken off the ice on a stretcher the previous night, the Montreal Canadiens, especially goaltender Carey Price, found some extra motivation against the Ottawa Senators.
Price came through with a 29-save performance as the Canadiens pulled out a hard-hitting but mostly clean 3-1 victory Friday night. The win left their best-of-seven series tied at 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Sunday in Ottawa.
"It’s the playoffs. You can’t dwell on the last game," said Price, who took heat for two goals between his pads in a 4-2 loss to Ottawa in the series opener. "You’ve got to get refocused and get ready for the next one."
Fourth-liner Ryan White, rookie Brendan Gallagher and veteran Michael Ryder scored in the middle period and the Canadiens held on. The somewhat flat Senators were let down by a power play that went 0 for 4.
"We saw our teammate, our friend, get hurt," said Gallagher. "You have to understand how emotional that is for us."
Milan Michalek scored for Ottawa.
Missing not only Eller but captain Brian Gionta and big winger Max Pacioretty, both of whom emerged from Game 1 with upper-body injuries, the Canadiens stuck to basics. They outshot Ottawa 34-30 and outhit the Senators 37-26.
There was anticipation of rough play after Eric Gryba’s hit that left Eller bleeding profusely on the ice and saw him spend a night in hospital with a concussion. Gryba was suspended for two games by the NHL on Friday.
Passions were further inflamed Friday morning as Montreal coach Michel Therrien criticized Ottawa counterpart Paul MacLean for what he felt were disrespectful comments. MacLean had suggested Eller should have kept his head up and that defenseman Raphael Diaz had left him open to a hit with a "suicide" pass.
But the teams stuck to hockey at night.
"When I read his comments this morning, I was pretty upset," said Therrien.
MacLean just stared into space without answering when asked about the two-game suspension. But he was clear on what caused his team to lose the game.
"They played harder than we did for most of the game," MacLean said. "We turned over pucks that ended up in our net.
"We need a lot of rest and on Sunday, we need to come out and play. We got a split here and now we have home-ice advantage. Now we have to respond to that."
The spotlight was on Price, who was porous down the stretch in the regular season and was thoroughly outplayed in Game 1 by Craig Anderson. He took more criticism for failing to speak to the media after the game.
But he was solid only 24 hours later, and got help from teammates who blocked 34 shots, including five each by Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban.
"The guys were letting me see the puck," said Price. "They did an excellent job of getting to the trash I left out. We’re going to need the same type of effort in Game 3."
Subban was not surprised.
"When he wants to shut the door, he shuts it and he locks it," the defenseman said.
The win cost Price the bottom of his two front teeth thanks to a collision in the crease with teammate Jarred Tinordi. He calmly skated to the team bench to hand over the broken choppers.
Curiously, Anderson had lost a tooth from being hit in the mask by Rene Bourque’s shot while winning Game 1.
Montreal broke through with two quick goals early in the second period.
White skated hard into the Ottawa zone and intercepted Erik Karlsson’s weak backhand pass out of the air at 3:20.
Only 53 seconds later, Alex Galchenyuk took the rebound of Francis Bouillon’s shot and slipped it across to Gallagher for the rookie’s second goal of the series.
Ottawa had an extra man on for a delayed penalty call when Michalek tipped in Chris Phillips’ shot.
A sliding pad save by Price during an Ottawa power play was big, as Montreal killed it off and then scored. Bourque slid the puck through a scramble to Ryder for a shot into an open side.
Notes: Gryba served the first of the two-game suspension and was replaced by Andre Benoit. Tough guy Matt Kassian replaced Cory Conacher and started the game on a rugged line with Chris Neil and Zack Smith. … With Eller as well as Pacioretty and Gionta out, Jeff Halpern, Colby Armstrong and Gabriel Dumont were suited up for Montreal. … The Canadiens were 7-1-1 in the second game of back-to-back contests this season.