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Payback time

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – Carey Price gave the San Jose Sharks a taste of their own medicine on Saturday.

Coming into the Bell Centre desperate for points while riding a three-game shutout streak dating back to December 1, 2011, the Sharks nevertheless had the tables turned on them in Montreal after Tomas Plekanec scored the eventual game-winner in the first, and Carey Price was, well… Carey Price.

“I don’t know what else we can say about him. Obviously he’s the best. Thanks to him we are where we are right now and… he’s just the best.” praised Plekanec, who snapped a three-year goalless streak against the Sharks on Saturday by burying a feed from Alex Galchenyuk past Antti Niemi late in the first. “Hopefully we can help him out a little more down the stretch and keep having success.”

Success isn’t something the Canadiens have had a lot of opposite the Sharks in recent years, their last win against the perennial Pacific Division powerhouse dating back to December 4, 2010. The Habs were also outclassed 4-0 in San Jose at the beginning of March before turning things around on Saturday.

“They’re a really good team. Every single year they’re right there competing,” continued Plekanec, who also assisted on Brendan Gallagher’s empty-netter to earn the game’s second star. “I think their building is one of the toughest buildings to play in, but at home we’re a little bit better against them, so we wanted to get that last game back tonight.”

Which they did, thanks in large part to the solid work of their All-Star netminder. With a one-goal lead heading into the dying seconds against a Sharks team with the extra attacker on the ice, Price held the fort once again when it mattered most, notably robbing Tomas Hertl on a prime scoring opportunity to secure his 40th win of the season.

“I was on the bench and everyone just couldn’t believe it,” admitted Galchenyuk, who hit his own milestone on Saturday with a 100th career point in the first, but preferred to dish on his teammate between the pipes postgame. “We knew he was capable of that, but to see those kinds of saves over and over now is definitely something special. It’s just unbelievable the way he’s playing.”

As has been the case all season however, Price was quick to instead credit his teammates who put forth a resilient effort in front of him in a rather physical affair.

“You’ve got to give our guys credit. That wasn’t an easy team to play against. They play a really grinding fast-paced style of hockey. I can’t say enough good things about our defense. Every game they put on their work boots and they go out there and block shots… even with their faces,” noted Price, who saw 22 shots blocked in front of him on Saturday, including one, literally, by Tom Gilbert’s face.

With his career-high 40 wins, Price now sits atop not just every major goaltending stat in the NHL – including goals against average (1.86), save percentage (0.938), wins (40) and shutouts (9) – but also just three wins shy of setting a new Canadiens’ single-season record.

“That’s just a testament to our team. We have a very tight group in here. We really enjoy coming to the rink every day and putting in the work,” added the 27-year-old goaltender who now chases a mark set by both Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden (42) with nine games remaining on the schedule. “We just seem to find ways to win. I wouldn’t be here without these guys. There’s no other way to look at it.”

With the win, the Habs themselves meanwhile look to be back on the right path following a tough stretch earlier this month which began with a loss to these same Sharks several hours after the NHL trade deadline.

“We don’t panic in this room; we just stick to our guns. We’re not going to win every game. Every team is going to go through a rough patch at some point – whether it’s because we’re not scoring or we’re losing games by one goal – it’s all part of the game,” acknowledged Price, who made 29 saves on Saturday to earn the night’s first star. “We have enough experience in this locker room to battle through it because we know that we’re a good team. We’re a confident team and we know that we have the ability to get back on track.”

They also know how to do so when the timing is just right.

“We’re just trying to work on our game and round it out at this point,” concluded Price. “We want to finish the season on a good note and make sure that we’re firing on all cylinders going into the playoffs.”

Steven Nechay is a writer for

The Numbers Game: March 21, 2015
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