MONTREAL (AP) Carey Price has thoroughly impressed his Montreal Canadiens teammates.
Price stopped 34 shots, and the Canadiens beat the New York Rangers 3-1 on Saturday night.
Price has allowed just four goals in his last three starts, while stopping 93 shots – good for a .959 save percentage. Last Saturday, Price made 32 saves against Colorado, and he limited Detroit to one goal on 28 shots on Tuesday.
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”He’s playing unbelievably,” said forward Max Pacioretty, who had a goal and an assist in Montreal’s Eastern Conference-leading seventh win of the season. ”When you see him lead the way like that, it obviously gives us confidence and gives us motivation. It seems like we’ve been talking about the same thing for at least two years.
”It really is an honor to have a guy like that kicking for you.”
Lars Eller broke a tie midway through the second period, and Pacioretty added a goal in the third to seal the win.
Tomas Plekanec netted a short-handed goal in the first period for Montreal (7-1).
With the game tied 1-1 midway through the second period, Price stoned Derick Brassard as he rushed out of the penalty box. Eller scored the go-ahead goal just seconds later.
”He’s playing like Carey Price,” Eller said. ”He spreads confidence to the defenders. He makes it look really easy. We’re fortunate to have him back there.”
At 11:14 of the third, Price made back-to-back saves on Martin St. Louis and John Moore to preserve Montreal’s two-goal lead. With 90 seconds remaining, Price made a dramatic pad save on Dan Girardi to kill any hope of a New York comeback.
”He’s playing like one of the top goalies in the league,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. ”Tonight was no different.
”He’s calm. He’s a good leader for us. He gives us the confidence to attack every game with a chance to win.”
Carl Hagelin scored the lone goal for the Rangers (4-4). Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots, but New York’s winning streak was snapped at three.
The Canadiens are 8-2 in their last 10 regular-season games against the Rangers, who eliminated Montreal to reach the Stanley Cup finals last season.
In the first game of that series, Rangers forward Chris Kreider injured Price, forcing the goalie to miss the remainder of the playoffs.
”We’re a confident hockey club, we enjoy putting the work in, and we stick up for each other,” Price said. ”We’re not trying to do anything special, we’re just trying to have fun and get the job done.”
Before Saturday’s game, fans observed a moment of silence to honor Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, two Canadian soldiers who were killed in separate attacks this week in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.
Montreal, undefeated at home (4-0), grabbed the lead for good when Eller got his stick on a loose puck in front of the net and put it between Lundqvist’s pads.
The Canadiens scored first for just the second time this season. With Manny Malhotra in the penalty box for holding, Montreal took the lead with a two-man, short-handed breakaway.
Plekanec capitalized on a New York mistake at the blue line, poking the puck past aggressive defenseman Ryan McDonagh along the boards. With all five Rangers in the offensive zone, and lots of space in front of them, Plekanec and Pacioretty fooled Lundqvist with four quick passes before Plekanec fired home his team-leading fifth goal.
”A 2-on-0 like that, it’s a little less nerve-racking than a breakaway,” Pacioretty said. ”I was happy to give it over to Plecky. We all have confidence in each other right now, and that play kind of showed it. It sucked the momentum out of them.”
Plekanec tied Yvon Lambert for 27th place on Montreal’s career scoring list.
Hagelin tied it 1-1 minutes later, jumping on a rebound to the left of Price after Dan Girardi’s shot from the point was kicked away by the goalie.
”We had a push in the third, but obviously it wasn’t good enough,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”We weren’t good enough in front of their net. We just couldn’t capitalize on those second chances in front of Price.”
After Eller put the Canadiens in front at 11:46 of the second, Pacioretty made it 3-1 at 6:35 of the third period when Dale Weise, from behind the net, found the left wing alone in the slot. The assist was Weise’s second of the game – his first two points of the season.
In just his sixth NHL game, Montreal-born rookie Anthony Duclair finished with one assist and three shots for the Rangers. The 19-year-old forward, whose friends and family were in the stands, has four assists this season. He was chosen as the third star of the game.
NOTES: The game was Therrien’s 600th as an NHL head coach. … Jiri Sekac wasn’t in the lineup for the Canadiens for the second straight game. … The Canadiens contained Rangers forward Rick Nash, who has scored eight of New York’s 22 goals this season. Nash was held to one shot in 15:19 of ice time.