Montreal 2 Chicago 1 OT (Bell Centre)
MONTREAL, QC.– On March 24, 2010 at the HSBC Arena, the Buffalo Sabres scored twice in the final two minutes to tie the game, and won it in a shootout. The Canadiens had held a 2-0 lead since early in the second period. Carey Price faced 42 shots, with 31 coming in the final 30 minutes.
Price was outstanding and was very deserving of a shutout but was let down by a lack of discipline and poor coaching. Still that didn’t stop print, radio and TV journalists from bashing Price. The Montreal Gazette printed a story by Pat Hickey with the headline “Price blows it for Habs in Buffalo.” (The title was later changed after bloggers objected.)
Almost lost in this tidal wave of hate for a young talented goalie were the quiet words of Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman. In an interview after the game against the Sabres, Bowman said simply, “Don’t trade Price.”
While some in the media scoffed at the old coach’s words, Bowman proved that he still knows more than a little about NHL talent. Just over a one year later, and Price is the Molson Player of the Year for the Canadiens, and a potential candidate for the Hart Trophy. Tonight, he made his 71st appearance, a franchise record.
Knowing the importance of the game vs Chicago, Price decided to fore-go the Molson Cup ceremony, as did Roman Hamrlik as the recipient of the Beauchamp Trophy. The focus was required as the game took on a tense playoff atmosphere. Even the Bell Centre faithful were unusually quiet.
Proving that Saturday night’s game against New Jersey was an anomaly, the Canadiens returned to their passive style of play, and fell victim to their old nemesis, a lack of discipline. Bad penalties by Hamrlik and P.K. Subban provided the Hawks second-rated power-play with numerous chances. Price shut the door on five Chicago opportunities with the man advantage.
Patrick Kane scored the only Chicago goal after getting past Mathieu Darche who could only wave at him going by. But the best Blackhawks player was Corey Crawford, a native Montrealer. While less busy than Price, Crawford was riding the emotional wave of a Bell Centre debut and was solid.
Next to Price, Andrei Kostitsyn was the best of the Canadiens, showing off his playmaking skill. Kostitsyn had the primary assist on both Habs goals, and also took five shots of his own. On defense, it was Brent Sopel with a strong game against his former mates, blocking six shots.
But it was Price who carried the Canadiens to victory and on into the playoffs. While the Habs sat back defending and waiting for their chances, Price had to make 20 saves in the third period alone. It was his 37th win of the season — one more than Patrick Roy ever achieved in his career with Montreal.
How good was Price? A Blackhawks blogger described his performance this way, “it was only the Carey Price renting out space on Mt. Olympus that kept the Hawks from a second point.”
Teammate Sopel tweeted this after the game, “Well Hab Fans Playoffs here we come. PK with a great shot but are boy Pricey came up HUGE. Time for the big dance.”
It was Subban scoring the game winner in over-time on a 4-on-3 power-play after a perfect pass from Kostitsyn. It was a puck off Subban’s magic second stick, reserved only for power-play duty, that found the back of the net sending Montreal to post-season play.
During the resulting goal celebration, Subban and Price skated towards each other meeting at the Canadiens blue-line. Subban ended up flat on his back after the collision still sporting a huge smile.
Price described it this way, “We were both excited, we were going pretty fast. We both knew what was going to happen. So I put my weight into it and buried him.”
The Canadiens hit the road for the final two games of the regular season heading to Ottawa for a game on Thursday with the finale against the Maple Leafs on Saturday in Toronto.
All that’s left to determine is the Habs first round playoff opponent. After last night’s action, the remain in sixth place and have penciled in a date with the Boston Bruins. Buffalo Sabres are one point back, and the New York Rangers are two points behind the Canadiens — each team has two games remaining.
All Habs game stars
1. Carey Price
2. Andrei Kostitsyn
3. Mike Cammalleri
Yannick Weber and Alexandre Picard were healthy scratches. Jeff Halpern, Max Pacioretty and Jaroslav Spacek were out with injuries. Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges are out for the season with a knee injuries.
Category: Game review