MONTREAL – The Canadiens salvaged a single point out of their tilt against the Lightning on Tuesday night, and they know Carey Price is the man responsible for making that happen.
In a game in which Michel Therrien’s troops struggled to generate scoring chances for the better part of two periods against the top squad in the Eastern conference, Price maintained his composure and proceeded to turn aside a season-high 44 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss at the Bell Centre to ensure that the Canadiens didn’t skate away empty-handed.
A day after losing superstar Steven Stamkos to a broken right tibia, Jon Cooper’s contingent was out to prove that they weren’t going to be pushed around despite being deprived of their top sniper for the foreseeable future. They did just that. The Lightning outshot the Canadiens by a 45-29 margin through 65 minutes of play before ultimately coming out on top and upping their record to 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, and 6-0-0 in extra time this year.
In the aftermath of the Habs’ second shootout loss of the season, defenseman Josh Gorges was quick to point out where things went wrong against Tampa Bay, while also praising the teammate he’s sworn to protect on a nightly basis for another stellar effort between the pipes.
“We weren’t skating. When you’re second on the puck, especially against a team as good as they are, they win the races and they keep control of the puck. We were chasing all night,” affirmed Gorges, who blocked a team-high five shots against the Lightning while logging 20:49 of ice time, including 4:10 in short-handed situations. “If we didn’t have Carey in there, that’s a different story. He was huge for us. If he’s not in there playing the way he did, we don’t steal a point. We owe him that one. We have to take accountability and see that it’s not nearly good enough.”
That’s especially true against a goaltender like Ben Bishop, who picked up his league-leading 12th victory of the season on Tuesday night. The Denver, CO native won his fifth straight start and has allowed only two goals in a game twice in 14 outings thus far this year. Needless to say, it was going to take a remarkable effort to best the 6-foot-7 netminder, and the Canadiens had difficulty creating offense against a defense corps that has enabled the Lightning to avoid losing streaks of any kind through 18 games.
“It’s disappointing, especially in the second period, the way we played during that period. We’re not satisfied with that effort,” admitted Daniel Briere, who scored the game-tying goal at the 15:22 mark of the third period by re-directing a Max Pacioretty shot past Bishop to send the game into overtime.
Returning to active duty after a 10-game absence due to injury, Briere, who centered a line between Michael Bournival and Rene Bourque, singled out Price’s effort on Tuesday night and also focused on the manner in which the Habs fought back to level the score when it seemed like their opponents were going to get the best of them in regulation time.
“Carey was incredible for us. He’s the reason we picked up a point. There’s no doubt about it,” praised the 36-year-old forward, who logged 16:01 of ice time and won 56 percent of his draws against the Lightning. “Fortunately, we responded in the third period. That’s a good sign. The other thing I liked is that even though we didn’t play up to our capabilities, even though we were being beaten, we weren’t taking unnecessary chances out there. We stayed patient, and Carey made some big saves for us. We waited for our opportunities and it generated results.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the result Price, nor his teammates, were looking for. The three-time All-Star, however, knows there’s plenty of hockey still to be played, including back-to-back tilts against the Blue Jackets and Rangers on Friday and Saturday night, respectively.
“It would’ve been nice to win. That’s for sure. You don’t really enjoy losing that much,” affirmed the 26-year-old netminder, who made six stops in overtime alone, several of which came while the Canadiens were down two men in the extra frame. “I think you have to take the positives out of it. You got a point. I think we all know that we could play better. When you play a bad game, you just have to put it behind you and move on to the next one.”