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Canadiens counting on Price a little too much

by Arpon Basu / NHL.com

MONTREAL -- The Los Angeles Kings left Bell Centre on Friday like many other teams before them.

The Kings put 46 shots on goal, attempted 46 more against the Montreal Canadiens, and wound up with two goals and zero points in the standings.

Carey Price
Goalie - MTL
RECORD: 16-8-1
GAA: 2.38 | SVP: .922

"I think we came out with a good push early and didn't capitalize on chances," Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin said after a 6-2 loss they thoroughly controlled. "They got their opportunities and took advantage of it, and we were left kind of wondering, 'What's going on?'"

Carey Price was going on.

As dominant as the Kings were, the Canadiens goaltender was a bit more so. Price stopped all 28 shots through two periods, with 16 of them coming on five Kings power plays.

"We had a lot of really good chances; we totally dominated the first period," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I think Carey Price was really, really good, wasn't he?"

By the time Muzzin finally managed to beat Price at 3:35 of the third period on the Kings' 34th shot on goal, the Canadiens had scored three goals on 12 shots against backup goaltender Martin Jones.

"We had the puck a lot and we created a lot, but no goals at the end of it. You need goals to win, obviously," Muzzin said. "I thought we battled back and stuck with it and continued trying to fight and get some more goals. It just wasn't happening."

Price's numbers this season are not in elite territory. He is 10th in the NHL in save percentage at .922 and 14th with a 2.38 goals-against average, but those numbers don't tell his entire story.

The one that does is wins.

Price is tied for second in the NHL with 16 victories, and though it is usually seen as more of a team statistic, in his case an argument can be made that he has stolen at least half of that total.

"We know Carey Price is an unbelievable goalie, one of the best in the League," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, Price's teammate on the Canada team that won gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. "He wins games for his team all the time."

It's perhaps a bit more often than the Canadiens should be comfortable with.

The win against Los Angeles gave Montreal a 10-6-1 record when being outshot by its opponent. Only the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs have more wins under that circumstance this season.

 

This game was an extreme example of it, but the Canadiens have had to rely on Price to bail them out on a regular basis.

"There was a little bit of [Dominik] Hasek in net today, a little bit of Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, and a little bit of Carey Price," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "So I mean, he's a great goaltender and he has the ability to make great saves. There's only a few goaltenders in the League that can do that and he's definitely one of them. It's not a surprise to us seeing him do that, but to be able to see him do it against one of the best teams in the League, that's what we need."

The Canadiens are 19-10-2 with 40 points in the standings, fighting for the lead in the Atlantic Division. But there is much about their game that requires significant improvement, and Price is often times the one who erases Montreal's mistakes.

It was never more apparent than Friday.

"We played the Stanley Cup champions," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "We've never claimed to be contenders for the Stanley Cup. Carey was solid, you have to give him a lot of credit."

Price has received the bulk of the credit for many Canadiens wins this season. If they ever do want to consider themselves true contenders, Price's teammates will need to be the reason they win on a more regular basis.

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