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Canadiens fail to produce for Carey Price again

Goalie allows 12 goals in six games against Rangers, Montreal scores 11

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- Imagine for a moment you are Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

You are widely regarded as one of the best in the world in your chosen profession, if not the very best, and yet you are unable to advance in your career because the people around you are unable to do their jobs at the most critical moments.


[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Canadiens series coverage | Zuccarello raises game against Canadiens]


Year after year, you are answering the same questions, and perhaps even asking the same questions to yourself.

You will be 30 in August and a year away from having to negotiate the most important contract of your career, a career that is far closer to the end than it is to the beginning.

How do you feel? What do you do?

Price allowed 12 goals in six games, and the Canadiens were eliminated by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round. He gave up two on 22 shots in a series-ending 3-1 loss in Game 6 on Saturday.

Price had a .933 save percentage in the series. It wasn't good enough because his teammates scored 11 goals on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, a one-goal difference between the two that means Lundqvist can continue his pursuit of his first Stanley Cup ring and Price can't.

"It's disappointing on my end that I couldn't make all the timely saves that we needed at the prime opportunities," Price said. "That's the way it goes in the playoffs."

It has gone that way far too often for Price in the playoffs, when he is left lamenting how he has zero margin for error.

On Saturday, Price allowed Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello's first of two goals in the game at 2:26 of the second period on a shot he should have stopped. Price would be the first to admit it.

The goal swung the momentum in the game, it brought the Madison Square Garden crowd to life, it put the Canadiens season in peril.

Price made one mistake, and his team couldn't make up for it. Again.

It has been a constant theme over Price's time in Montreal, and with him able to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2018, his future with the Canadiens is about to become a serious topic of conversation.

It wasn't yet Saturday, because the Canadiens were busy explaining why they were unable to beat Lundqvist often enough to defeat the Rangers.

Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Price makes stop on tricky redirect

"I think we had offense. I think we lacked finish," Montreal coach Claude Julien said. "We had lots of scoring chances, lots of Grade A chances, but we didn't get them through the goaltender."

Julien has been coach of the Canadiens since Feb. 14, but his predecessors have used that exact same reasoning to explain prior playoff exits for years.

The Canadiens' best finisher, captain Max Pacioretty, did not score a goal in the series despite putting 28 shots on goal, more than any other player on Montreal or New York. His 35 goals led the Canadiens in the regular season, but as soon as he went four games without scoring in the series, the pressure on him started to mount.

He has been widely criticized in Montreal for his lack of production ever since then, and it surely won't stop now.

Why? Because he didn't score, but also because the Canadiens need him to score for them to have any chance at success.

"The chances were there," Pacioretty said. "I don't keep track of numbers or anything, but the chances were there. Their goaltender played great. Really strong defensive team.

"I know where everyone's going with this. My job is to bury those chances. I take full responsibility for not scoring a goal in this series. But the chances were there."

It is fair for Pacioretty to take some criticism for not producing in the playoffs because that's the nature of the playoffs. What probably isn't fair is that his production is such a critical aspect of the Canadiens attack.

Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Price denies Hayes' tip-in try in 3rd

He mentioned how often he has to answer questions following a one-goal loss or a one-goal win, and was asked afterwards if that is a sign that the Canadiens need help offensively.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I'm not the GM."

That would be general manager Marc Bergevin, who inherited this lack of offensive punch when he was hired in 2012, a problem that has remained in place in the five years since.

It is something Bergevin has recognized and has worked hard to solve but has been unable to do.

Except now the urgency has become very clear.

Suddenly his best player is a year away from free agency, and Bergevin needs to convince Price it is worth staying in Montreal, that this over-reliance on his ability will change.

Finding evidence for that argument will be difficult.

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