MONTREAL – It was only fitting that Carey Price play a starring role in helping the CH set a new franchise mark for most consecutive wins to start a season on Thursday night.
The 28-year-old netminder paced the Canadiens to their fifth consecutive victory and their first-ever 5-0-0 start, stopping 25 shots in a 3-0 shutout of the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre. It was the seventh time Price had blanked the Blueshirts, and it also afforded him the privilege of taking over sole possession of fourth place on the Canadiens’ all-time shutout list, surpassing Bill Durnan with the 35th shutout of his career.
“Whenever you play a very good team, you know you have to play your very best to win. Once again, the Rangers played very well. That’s an excellent hockey club over there. We have a lot of respect for that team and their abilities. I think they probably feel the same way about us. In the future, I’m sure there will be a lot more great hockey games between our two teams,” offered Price, who outdueled Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist in an epic battle between the two top netminders on the planet. “I think it’s starting to reflect on our hockey team. We have a pretty confident group of guys here. We’ve always felt strong in our abilities. We have to stick to the same process, realize what makes us successful and keep doing it.”
The Canadiens did just that in their home opener, getting especially strong contributions from their third line to support Price’s outstanding effort between the pipes. Tomas Fleischmann opened the scoring in the second period, before linemate Dale Weise sealed the deal late in the third with his first goal of the year. David Desharnais assisted on both tallies, before Tomas Plekanec capped the scoring with an empty-netter. In the end, it turned out that all Price needed was a lead. He just took it from there.
“That was definitely good play in the crease on both ends. Carey came out on top. He was a wall. That was amazing to watch. But, you’ve got to tip your hat to Lundqvist because he played a very good game as well,” shared newly-minted captain Max Pacioretty, who was presented with the ceremonial torch during pre-game ceremonies by former captain Guy Carbonneau. “We traded a bit too many chances with them, but they had their fair share and Pricer came up huge for us, obviously. It’s nice to see everyone pitch in and make a difference.”
Head coach Michel Therrien shared similar thoughts after watching his squad put another two points in the bank on Thursday night.
“The way we played, we were a tough team to play against. We stuck to our structure, and the work ethic of those guys is right where you want it. We did a lot of good things,” praised Therrien, who, like Pacioretty, couldn’t help but acknowledge the remarkable effort both goaltenders offered up for their respective clubs in front of a raucous crowd. “Those guys gave us a good show. Carey was phenomenal again. Lundqvist was really, really good. He kept them in the game. We saw a really quality hockey game, a game with intensity. That was our home opener. The guys really did a great job again.”
A team player in every conceivable way, Price was quick to give credit to the guys plying their trade in front of him. The four-time All-Star – and reigning Vezina Trophy, Hart Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award winner – couldn't say enough good things about how they’ve gone about their business early on this season, especially while short-handed.
“Our penalty killers have been doing such a great job since the start of the season. They’ve allowed me to see the puck. They’re getting in the shooting lanes, and I’m just trying to do my part to make the odd save,” explained Price, who picked up his league-leading fourth win of the year on Thursday night, and also upped his goals-against average to 1.25, and his save percentage to .957, too. “It’s very important that we learn from last year. I thought we did a great job maintaining offensive zone pressure and not sitting back. We were always trying to get the next goal. I think it’s something that we’ll have to continue doing for the rest of the way.”
That mentality of continuously pushing the pace – coupled with a Carey Price playing at the top of his game – will undoubtedly be what gives this team a chance to do something extra special this year.
“The guys didn’t want to just watch. They wanted to go at them. They wanted to attack them. Even in the third, with five minutes left in a game, we knew there was going to be a lot of work to be done and we didn’t want to change our style. This is why we’ve had success,” concluded Therrien. “When we evaluate the game, at 5-on-5, we were playing solid hockey.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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