-- Prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien predicted goaltender Carey Price would be his team's best player.
Price clearly wasn't in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators, but an argument could be made he was in Game 2 on Friday.
Price made 29 saves, and the Canadiens got goals from Ryan White, Brendan Gallagher and Michael Ryder in a 3-1 win at Bell Centre that knotted the best-of-7 series at one victory apiece.
"I think he knew that we needed him to have a good one and he did," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "That's the thing about [Price]; when he decides he's going to shut the door, he shuts it. And he locks it."
One night after Lars Eller's scary head injury, and missing captain Brian Gionta and regular-season scoring leader Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens controlled play early and finally solved Senators goaltender Craig Anderson after his 48-save masterpiece in Game 1.
The Canadiens expressed their anger Friday morning over what happened to a fallen teammate, but they insisted they needed to channel that anger into their play rather than try to exact some measure of revenge.
That is what they succeeded in doing, playing a physical game but staying on the right side of the line to take a must-win game.
"I think our coach sent the message that no matter who's in the lineup, it's about our attitude," Subban said. "I think we had a great attitude today. We went out there we executed, we did what we had to do."
The Senators head home to Ottawa to prepare for Game 3 on Sunday night (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, NBCSN) having accomplished their mission of stealing home-ice advantage.
But captain Daniel Alfredsson had a difficult time seeing it that way after the game.
"It doesn't feel like that right now," he said. "We played a good first half of the game, then I think when they got up 3-1 late in the second it kind of put us in a big hole and it seemed like we didn't have the push that we did have [in Game 1] yesterday, so they were able to ride the last period off and we didn't really create enough chances to threaten them."
Price, who allowed two questionable goals in the third period of a 4-2 loss in Game 1, did not have to handle a shot on goal for more than seven minutes after the opening faceoff Friday. But just before the five-minute mark of the second period, Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi's skate hit Price in the mask. Price skated to his bench, handed his tooth to a trainer, put his mask back on and went to work.
"A couple of guys went hard to the net, and I don't know what hit me in the head but it kind of stung me for a second," Price said. "I felt two teeth in my mouth, so I knew that wasn't very good."
Price allowed a goal to Chris Phillips at 8:16 of the second that cut Montreal's 2-0 lead in half, but a sequence of saves on a Senators power play late in the period may have won the game for the Canadiens.
An Alfredsson one-timer was turned away before Price made an incredible skate save on Sergei Gonchar about 30 seconds later, and two more saves on a Mika Zibanejad partial break and the rebound 10 seconds after that.
A minute later, Michael Ryder scored his first of the playoffs at 18:57 of the second to make it 3-1 for the Canadiens when the game could have just as easily been tied.
"We got a couple more bounces and we buried a couple of opportunities," Price said. "At least I didn't let in any soft goals, so that helps."
Senators coach Paul MacLean lost the services of defenseman Eric Gryba when he was suspended by the NHL a few hours before the game for his hit on Eller in Game 1. It was widely assumed Patrick Wiercioch would get the nod on defense, but MacLean opted instead for Andre Benoit.
"It came up heads twice," MacLean explained. "That's what it was."
In light of the back and forth between the two teams Friday regarding the Gryba hit, MacLean dressed tough guy Zack Kassian in place of rookie Cory Conacher and put him in the starting lineup with Chris Neil and Zack Smith, though nothing ultimately came of the move.
"We wanted him to bring energy," MacLean said of Kassian. "He's played well for us and he's a physical player and I knew it was going to be a physical game."
Therrien not only had to find a replacement for Eller -- a difficult enough task unto itself -- he had to compensate for the loss of Gionta and Pacioretty, each out with an upper-body injury suffered in Game 1.
Therrien decided to dress Jeff Halpern, Gabriel Dumont and Colby Armstrong, three players who combined for 11 points this season replacing three players who combined for 95. Dumont played 3:25 in his playoff debut, but Armstrong laid out six hits in 16:14 of ice time, and Halpern shared the team lead with five shots on goal in 11:58, including 3:41 on the penalty kill.
"Everybody thought we would be down about what happened last night and the loss of very important players," Therrien said. "You need character for that, and again tonight that team showed a lot of character."
The Canadiens carried the play early for a second night in a row, jumping out to an 8-0 lead in shots until Gonchar hit the net on a power play at 7:26.
That power play was the first of three the Senators would have in the first period, but they were unable to generate much and squandered the opportunity to take an early lead, instead heading into the intermission in a scoreless tie.
"I thought we did better things with it, but it certainly cost us tonight," MacLean said of the Senators' power play. "We could have used something out of our power play tonight in the first period when we had three opportunities. I think that was a huge part of the game."
The Canadiens got on the board early in the second period on a play when White worked hard to create some luck for himself. With the puck dumped into the Ottawa zone, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson had White bearing down on him when he threw a pass that hit White's stick and rolled through Anderson's legs at 3:20.
Gallagher scored his second of the series 53 seconds later when fellow rookie Alex Galchenyuk found him all alone with a wide-open net in front of him to make it 2-0.
"They played harder than we did for most of the game and we turned over pucks that ended up in our net," MacLean said. "Any time of the year that's a recipe for not winning."