VANCOUVER – The theme of the team’s Western Canadian contingent stepping up in their hometowns continued in Vancouver, with Anahim Lake, BC native Carey Price putting on a goaltending clinic on Saturday night.
Earning first-star honors with his 39-save performance at Rogers Arena, Price was in All-Star form from the opening puck drop in Vancouver. Stringing together a series of highlight-reel saves in the early minutes of Saturday’s game, the 26-year-old netminder helped keep the Canucks off the board long enough for Max Pacioretty to open the scoring and turn the tide in the Canadiens’ favor.
“We didn’t show up that well early in the game, so when we see Carey battling like that out there, you want to do whatever you can for him,” admitted Pacioretty, who tied Tomas Plekanec and Rene Bourque for the team lead with five shots in the game. “We were able to gut it out and help him out towards the end of the game. He definitely motivated us.
“As soon as we got that lead we wanted to play well defensively to get him that win,” he added. “That was a shutout performance, but obviously we’ll take the win.”
Getting offense from a variety of sources throughout the lineup, the Habs enjoyed a second-straight four-goal game after disposing of the Oilers in similar 4-1 fashion on Thursday night. In front of over a dozen friends and family members, fellow BC native Josh Gorges even got in on the action, notching the 13th goal of his NHL career in front of his “home” crowd.
“I don’t get too many goals, so to get one when my family is all in the building is pretty cool,” described Gorges, before turning the spotlight squarely on the evening’s most impressive performer. “If [Carey]’s not in there tonight playing the way he is, we don’t win that hockey game. For the first period and even a lot of the second period he gave us an opportunity to [maintain] a one-goal lead. Without him it would’ve been a different story.”
As adept at deflecting praise in the room as he was at kicking aside shots during the game, Price wasn’t interested in basking in his best performance of the season.
“I don’t want to accept all the credit for that,” he stressed after coming away with his third win in four career starts at Rogers Arena. “We played an excellent third period, our special teams played very well tonight, and we blocked a ton of shots. It was a complete effort by everybody.”
With nine different players factoring in on the scoresheet, a pair of powerplay goals and a doozy of a shorthanded marker to seal the win in Vancouver, the team spent the majority of the game firing on all cylinders in front of the three-time All-Star, despite being outshot 31-20 through the first two periods.
“Our guys did an excellent job of boxing them out. There could’ve been a lot more shots; they blocked a ton in front of me,” praised Price, whose team blocked 17 shots, led by Gorges’ six. “They come out hard in this building, there’s no doubt about that. They’re a good hockey team, they work hard, and their coach gets the best out of that hockey club. We just had to weather the storm the first couple of periods and we got lucky along the way. I thought in the third period we shut them down and that’s a credit to our team play.”
Bolstering his season save percentage to an impressive .929 with his effort in Vancouver, Price also helped lower his goals-against average to 2.27 through four games in 2013-14. For his head coach, Saturday’s win wasn’t a bounce-back performance following a 3-2 loss in Calgary; it was exactly what he’s come to expect from his No.1 goaltender since camp kicked off in September.
“I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Carey Price since the start of the season. He’s in control, his positioning is good and he’s making key saves,” described Michel Therrien. “You have to give the Canucks credit – they came out really hard. If Carey Price isn’t in there, it wouldn’t have even been a game. He made some huge saves for us; he kept us in it and gave us confidence. Tonight was definitely his best game of the year. Hats off to Carey.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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