RALEIGH – Wednesday night in Raleigh, Habs fans got another look at the player Lars Eller is continuing to become.
Since returning from shoulder surgery at the beginning of the season, Eller has been steadily earning the respect of the Canadiens faithful with his ever-developing style of play and hockey sense. The 22-year-old forward added to his growing series of personal-highs in 2011-12, scoring the first short-handed goal of his career on Wednesday night before earning first star honors against the 'Canes.
“We definitely got off to a bad start, but we knew that if we could score one, we would cut their lead in half and the game would get a lot tighter,” explained the young Dane whose short-handed marker sparked the Habs on the comeback trail after trailing by two early in the game. “I saw that Raphael [Diaz] was going to shoot so I went right for the net. Sometimes you manage to find the puck and get it into the net, sometimes you don’t. Tonight I was able to get my stick on the puck and knock it in.”
The penalty kill, particularly on the road, continued to be a high-point in the Habs’ game, snuffing out all four Carolina power plays on the night.
“We’ve been doing a really good job in that area and everyone’s been really aggressive on the puck,” continued Eller who helped his team’s PK unit stay perfect for the last nine games and earn a league-high 95.9% efficiency on the road. “It’s probably one of our greatest strengths as a team right now. And of course we have Carey in nets who’s always our best penalty killer.”
For his part, Price not only pitched in on a flawless penalty kill but also exorcised his 2011-12 shootout demons, stoning all three Carolina shooters to nab the Habs a big two points.
“We’ve been working on a couple of little things, and we've really focused on timing,” said Price of his recent work with goaltending coach Pierre Groulx. “I think a couple of weeks ago, there were some goals – like that last move in the shootout – that would have gone in if I was just a little bit off. So I’ve made a couple of small adjustments but it seems to have made a big difference.
“You really have to give our guys credit tonight,” added Price. “We kept the pressure on. Even in the third period, we kept coming after they scored that goal.”
Sending the game into overtime, when Travis Moen scored in the third period, it wasn't just the game's tying goal; it was also the 50th NHL goal in his career.
“I just went to the net. I saw Webby was going to shoot it. It’s just one of those ones that got lucky and went off my stick and in, but I’ll take it,” said an ever-modest Moen whose 50th goal also happened to be the 100th point of his NHL career. “Sure it feels good, but in the end as long as the team’s winning and I can contribute and help out both defensively and offensively, I’m going to be happy.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
On the Road: Raleigh