BOSTON – If goaltending is the backbone of any successful playoff team, it’s safe to say the Canadiens are in good hands with Carey Price between the pipes.
On Thursday night, the 26-year-old netminder stole the show at TD Garden, turning aside a season-high 48 shots in the Canadiens’ 4-3 victory in double overtime over the Bruins. It was Price’s fifth straight win in as many starts this postseason, as the Anahim Lake, BC native played a prominent role in helping Michel Therrien’s troops draw first blood in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series against the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners.
“Carey gave us a chance to win tonight. It wasn’t our best game. He held us in and made some huge saves for us. We’re fortunate to come out on top, and it’s a big win for us,” offered captain Brian Gionta, referencing Price’s combativeness from start to finish on a night when the Habs saw a 2-0 advantage heading into the third period evaporate six-and-half minutes into the final frame. “All of the saves were huge. He had too many of them to pick out a couple. It was quite the performance tonight. He stole that game for us.”
That was the consensus inside the Canadiens’ dressing room after P.K. Subban notched the game-winning goal – which just happened to be his second power play snipe of the night – at the 4:17 mark of the second overtime period. Fellow rearguard Francis Bouillon insists Price was at the top of his game in the series-opener.
“Carey was incredible. We’ll need him all series long. He’ll have to play just like that every night. We’ll try to support him the best that we can, but tonight he offered up an incredible performance,” praised Bouillon, who notched his first postseason goal since the 2007-08 campaign with a marker that beat Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask at 12:09 of the third period to put the Canadiens up 3-2. “It was truly a signature Carey Price win. We’ll take it, but we’ll have to play better hockey from here on out.”
Knowing full well that the recipe for playoff success in the short and long-term doesn’t include allowing the three-time All-Star to face exorbitant amounts of enemy fire game in and game out, Subban is adamant that tightening things up defensively is a top priority heading into Game 2 on Saturday afternoon in Beantown.
“When there’s success, you’ve got to take it and get better. I still think there are a lot of things we need to get better on. We can’t be giving up 50 or more shots for the rest of the series. I’ll tell you that. Pricey shouldn’t have to stop that many pucks,” explained Subban, who topped all skaters on both teams by logging 33:49 of ice time while recording five of the Canadiens’ 45 hits on Thursday night. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. In my opinion, Carey’s the best goaltender in the league and he showed that again in Game 1.”
Showing no signs of rust after seeing live playoff action for the first time in nine days, Price didn’t mind the heavier-than-usual workload, one that mandated that the Olympic gold medalist make 15 critical stops during extra time alone.
“It was a battle. It was exactly what we were expecting and we just gutted it out. It was a hard fought game that could have gone either way,” mentioned Price, who offered up a similar performance against the Bruins in a postseason tilt on Apr. 23, 2011 when he stopped 49 shots in Game 5. “I feel good. That’s the kind of game we train for all year. We haven’t been sitting on the couch all season for nothing or practicing all year for nothing. It’s just gut check time and that’s really what it comes down to.”
The Canadiens’ bench boss wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When you look at the Bruins’ record throughout the season, you can see that the TD Garden is a place where it’s difficult to win. Every time you pick up a win here, it’s an accomplishment, no matter how you get the job done,” offered Therrien. “Carey Price was outstanding and the power play clicked. We wanted to win the first one. Now, I feel that our team will get more and more involved in the series as it goes on. It’s a big boost of confidence for us.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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