SUNRISE – It wasn’t just a page that was rewritten in the Canadiens history books on Sunday, but more like a chapter.
With an absolutely brilliant All-Star season winding down, Carey Price tied a team record against the Panthers in Sunrise, making 24 saves to earn his 42nd win of the 2014-15 campaign. In a season that’s been full of accomplishments, Price’s latest puts him at the top of the club's all-time wins list alongside Habs legends Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden.
“It’s been a lot of fun this year. That pretty much sums it up,” explained the 27-year-old netminder who saw his entire team pitch in after scoring leader Max Pacioretty was forced out early in the first. We’ve all had success this year and I guess this [record] just reflects that.”
One teammate whose on-ice contribution was difficult to miss was Devante Smith-Pelly, who scored his first goal in a Canadiens uniform while also making his debut on the team’s first line.
“I saw the puck kind of come loose so I tried to make myself available. P.-A. [Parenteau] made a great pass and I just tried to get it on net. It felt good. It was a big relief for me, and hopefully now it snowballs in the right direction.” recalled the 22-year-old Habs forward who also became the 500th player in team history to score at least one goal. “[Max] is our best goalscorer. One guy wasn’t going to be able to fill that gap by himself, so without anyone having to tell us, we knew we had to pick up the slack by committee. Any time you’re able to contribute makes it special, but being my first makes it even more special. Most of all I’m just happy that we’re coming away with the win.”
Head coach Michel Therrien meanwhile was happy with the solid effort in unfamiliar territory.
“I wanted to try something new with [Devante]. With only a couple of regular season games left, now was the time [to shuffle the lines]. I liked his presence in front of the net during power plays,” dished the Habs bench boss, whose own milestones came in the form a 400th game and 200th win behind the Canadiens bench. “He’s been more involved since the game in New Jersey. It’s one of the reasons I tried moving him up tonight and I’m pleased with the result.”
Rounding out the record-setting was Tomas Plekanec, who scored his 200th career NHL goal with the Habs early in the first.
“It’s nice. Stats are one thing, but I don’t pay much attention to them,” acknowledged Plekanec, who also registered his 14th multipoint game in the 4-1 win. “[I’ll admit] as a kid though, you never dream that you’ll score 200 NHL goals one day.”
With eight different players adding their names to the scoresheet in Sunrise, the Habs were left with one very happy head coach when all was said and done.
“To be honest, it was really a group effort tonight. After losing Pacioretty early, the guys rose to the challenge,” continued Therrien. “It wasn’t a single player effort. Everyone raised their game tonight.”
Which is just what a good team needs to do when it’s gunning for the most important milestone; a 25th Stanley Cup.
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com.
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