Thanks to being the highest-scoring team in the NHL – and some strong play from their backup goaltender – the league-leading Montreal Canadiens have been just fine without Carey Price.
They’ll try for their fifth win in six games since losing the league’s reigning MVP when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Montreal (13-2-1) continues to flourish despite being without Price the last five games due to a lower-body injury. Coach Michel Therrien said Price isn’t expected to be out for the long term after he received a second opinion confirming team doctors’ diagnosis.
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"It’s good for him, mentally. There’s no worry. He’s not going to play this week," Therrien said. "We hope he’ll be able to get on the ice pretty soon, so this is good news."
Mike Condon has gone 6-0-1 with a 1.57 goals-against average in Price’s absence through his first seven career games. The Canadiens have also taken the pressure off with plenty of scoring, leading the league with 3.7 goals per game and converting on the power play in each of the last six games.
David Desharnais’ power-play goal with 1:08 left put Montreal ahead in Saturday’s 4-2 home victory against Boston after the club trailed 2-1 entering the third period. Max Pacioretty followed with an empty-netter in the final minute, his eighth goal to tie for the team lead.
Desharnais has seven points in the last five games and 14 on the season, second-most on the team.
"I don’t know what to say, everybody’s getting rewarded and I’m one of them," said Desharnais, who was dropped from Montreal’s top line earlier in the season. "No matter what happened this season, I was going to keep a good attitude."
The Penguins (9-5-0) lost 5-2 to Calgary on Sunday to close a four-game trip. They fell behind 3-1 in the first period while being outshot 16-8.
"We were really separated from each other. We weren’t supporting each other really well," forward Eric Fehr said. "We were going for home-run plays and that’s not the way we’ve been winning lately."
Pittsburgh had won nine of 10 prior to Sunday. Phil Kessel continued to get comfortable with his new club, scoring for the second straight game to give him four goals in seven contests after scoring twice in the first seven.
These teams have split the last eight meetings after Montreal won the season series opener 3-2 at Pittsburgh on Oct. 13 behind Pacioretty’s two goals. He has seven goals and two assists n his last seven matchups.
The Penguins have gone 9 for 28 on the power play in the past eight meetings.
Pittsburgh, though, will be looking to avoid dropping four in a row at home against the Canadiens for the first time since Oct. 21, 1975-Oct. 23, 1976.
Sidney Crosby’s two goals are his fewest through 14 games in a season, though he has 10 and nine assists in his last 15 against Montreal. Evgeni Malkin has recorded four goals and 10 assists in his past 10 meetings.