A couple months ago, I was dismissive of the Canadiens’ chances at a deep playoff run, disproportionately predicated as their success seemed to be upon a Hart-worthy performance from Carey Price. I take it all back. Price’s 43-save shutout to step on the Senators’ throats was an excellent reminder that it doesn’t take much more to win a Cup than a goalie standing on his head, the benefit of the bounces, and maybe a fortuitous whistle or two.
Price and the Habs fended off the Senators impassioned comeback bid with a 2-0 win in front of a raucous Ottawa crowd chanting “Sens in seven.” It was a thrilling end to a thrilling series, and don’t let the scoreline fool you: it was a one-goal game for more than 46 minutes, from when Brendan Gallagher batted a puck out of mid-air until Max Pacioretty’s empty-netter with one second remaining.
Gallagher’s was the lucky bounce; Montreal got its well-timed whistle 6:54 into the second, when the Senators should have tallied the equalizer. Mark Borowiecki’s shot struck Price’s pads, but disappeared from the view of referee Chris Lee, who quickly blew his whistle—just as Jean-Gabriel Pageau pounced on the rebound and put it past Price. It was immediately clear that it had been waved off; it took just one replay to make just as clear that it shouldn’t have been.
(Price was coy about that play, refusing to say whether he had the puck, only acknowledging that “I heard the whistle and then I heard the crowd booing.” )
Besides being bailed out by sightlines, Price was immaculate. In periods two and three, Montreal was outshot 30-6. In fact, between the Habs recording the game’s first six shots and Pacioretty’s dagger, the Senators outpeppered the Canadiens by a tally of 43-12. Standing between them and Game 7 was Price.
“That’s what makes it fun,” Price said of the pressure-packed finale. “Those are the situations you want to be in, those are the things you dream about as a kid.”
The performance was all the more impressive coming just two days after Price’s awful Game 5, in which he allowed five goals on 25 shots. It’s a special kind of talent to be able to shake that off, with all the momentum going the wrong way. But Price is a gold medalist, and soon to be an MVP, and there aren’t many more dependable netminders to turn to when you need a stopper. The Habs are so thankful Price is on their side, they couldn’t keep up their attempted silent-treatment prank for more than a few seconds:
Montreal is absolutely not a one-man team—Price, no matter how hot he’s been, doesn’t rack up 110 points on his own. But they are the team most likely to ride an all-world goalie for longer than than their roster may warrant. So maybe Price couldn’t keep up his early-season numbers forever; he merely needs 12 more wins, now. The beauty of the playoffs is that nothing is unsustainable.
Next up for the Canadiens is the winner of Detroit/Tampa Bay, with the Wings holding a 3-2 series lead. If they believe that past performance matters, Habs fans definitely have a rooting interest: