Coyotes look to solve Canadiens' Price
The Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price is certainly in the running for the Vezina Trophy, and he's making a case for the Hart Trophy, too.
Price has looked every bit like an MVP against the Arizona Coyotes over the years.
Coming off back-to-back shutouts, Price tries to improve to 7-0 in the series as the surging Canadiens host the Coyotes on Sunday.
Price has stopped a combined 60 shots in consecutive 1-0 wins over the Rangers on Thursday and Washington on Saturday. He tied Hall of Famer Patrick Roy for fifth on the team's all-time shutout list with 29 after Max Pacioretty scored 3:08 into overtime against the Capitals.
Price has compiled a 1.43 goals-against average in winning five straight and 13 of his last 16 starts. He's surrendered two goals or fewer in all but one of those appearances,
"He's amazing. He's so humble. He just comes to the rink and does his job. A guy like that doesn't have to open his mouth once to be the best leader on this team," Pacioretty, who also provided all the offense against New York, told the team's official website. "The way he shows up, the way he handles himself, the way he carries himself, he's the backbone of this team.
"You get goose bumps when you're stepping out of the tunnel because you want to step up for him."
With 67 points, the Canadiens (32-13-3) are one in back of Tampa Bay for the Atlantic Division lead with three games in hand. They are an NHL-best 15-3-1 since Dec. 9.
Montreal has won five in a row, with the last four all coming by one goal.
Ottawa's Clarke MacArthur fights for the puck with Coyotes' goalie Mike Smith (center) and Zbynek Michalek (left) during the first period Saturday. The Senators won 7-2.
"We're all making contributions. It's a team sport. Guys are doing their part," Price said. "I'm relying on the guys around me and they're relying on me. Right now, we've got a perfect harmony going."
Price's success shouldn't come as much of a surprise to the Coyotes (17-26-6), who haven't been able to get much past the star goaltender. Price has won each of his six starts against Arizona behind a 1.65 GAA, surrendering one or two goals in each.
Montreal had won nine straight in the series before dropping the last meeting, 5-2 at Arizona on March 6. Mike Smith made 24 saves for the Coyotes, improving to 3-1-3 with a 2.20 GAA against the Canadiens.
While Price ranks among the leaders at his position in several key categories, Smith is having a season he'd rather forget. Smith's 21 losses are the most in the NHL, and he owns a league-worst 3.49 GAA.
Smith stopped just 15 of 20 shots before getting pulled in favor of rookie Louis Domingue during Saturday's 7-2 loss at Ottawa.
"Where we are with some key veterans out and playing some young players, the bottom line is your goaltender has to be good for you and ours wasn't good," coach Dave Tippett said.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek scored his second goal of the season for Arizona, which dropped to 1-6-2 in its last nine.
"It's not how we want to be. We want to be a hard team to play against," Michalek said. "I just was embarrassed and I think everybody should feel the same way. There's no excuses."
The Coyotes franchise has been outscored 100-43 in going 1-19-1 with two ties in its last 23 visits to Montreal.
Pacioretty leads the Canadiens with 23 goals and 40 points, 28 of which have come in 24 home games. Montreal is 17-5-2 on its own ice.