Landeskog, Grubauer lead Avalanche to 2-1 win over Canadiens

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              Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer stops a shot against the Montreal Canadiens in the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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DENVER (AP) — Gabriel Landeskog got the chance to celebrate his goal a second time — after a big sigh of relief.

He thought his score would count despite a challenge for goaltender interference. But really he wasn’t sure. It’s hard to be completely sure.

The Colorado captain broke a tie 35 seconds into the third period by batting in a goal, Philipp Grubauer stopped 35 shots and the Avalanche beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Wednesday night.

“It was one of those that could have gone either way,” Landeskog said.

That’s what infuriated goaltender Carey Price and the Canadiens.

This is how the play unfolded: Landeskog’s initial shot bounced off the chest of Price and the forward knocked it in out of midair as he and Montreal’s Jonathan Drouin crashed into Price. Landeskog celebrated as the Canadiens challenged that it was goaltender interference. The goal was upheld on replay and Landeskog celebrated again by tossing down his water bottle in exuberance.

“I disagree with the call,” Price said.

His coach had his back.

“It’s 50-50 now,” said Claude Julien, who coached his 300th game with Montreal. “Anytime we challenge a call, we know we say, ‘We’re tossing a coin here.’ We have no idea how they’re going to call it.

“What we saw was the initial collision was Landeskog and our goaltender, which if there’s not that collision, he freezes the puck. They can look at the second one and say our guy pushed our goaltender even further, but that’s after the original collision. That’s why our goaltender doesn’t agree with the call. That’s why I support him on that.”

Price is even more confused about the rule.

“I don’t know what it is. I just think if your ability is impeded to make a move to the puck I think it’s pretty clear,” said Price, whose team started a six-game trip that’s broken up by the holiday break. “They had a different opinion on the contact.”

Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist to give him an NHL-leading 58 points. He’s followed by teammate Nathan MacKinnon, who has 55 points after a two-assist evening. Landeskog, the third member of their high-flying line, scored his team-best 23rd goal.

Price, who stopped 24 shots, came up short in his bid for his 300th career victory. He’s trying to become the 35th goaltender to reach that milestone.

Brendan Gallagher had a power-play goal for Montreal, breaking the Canadiens’ 0 for 25 dry spell with the man advantage.

Grubauer only got stronger throughout the night in improving to 8-0-3 over his last 11 starts. He started in place of a struggling Semyon Varlamov.

“I just felt (Grubauer) looked really solid in the net, like he was in control of the game,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “I haven’t felt that way about our goaltending for the last little bit, and that’s what we need. We need those guys to take control of it and to be real sharp and on top of their game and give us a chance to sort of find ourselves.”

Trailing 1-0 early in the second, Colorado capitalized on a mistake by Price. He tried to play the puck to the side had it intercepted by MacKinnon, who dished it over to Rantanen for the goal.

“I just tried to yell for Nate and he made a quick pass and Price couldn’t recover,” Rantanen said. “It was a good play by Nate.”

With two goals and three assists, Colorado’s top line of Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen have now amassed a combined 155 points. Asked if that unit proved difficult to contain, Julien pointed out that one of their scores was off a turnover and the other a disputed goal.

“I don’t think they burned us,” Julien said. “If anything, our guys played well against them.”

NOTES: Canadiens LW Charles Hudon was back in the lineup after not dressing in the last nine games. … Avs D Nikita Zadorov left with a lower-body injury.

UP NEXT

Canadiens: At Arizona on Thursday night. Montreal is 0-3 this season in the second game of a back-to-back.

Avalanche: Host Chicago on Friday night.