– This certainly wasn’t how Montreal Canadiens
backup goalie Jaroslav Halak
had envisioned his initial appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Then again, the Montreal Canadiens
weren’t expecting to fall behind a third-straight time to the Philadelphia Flyers
in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal-round series Monday night at Wachovia Center.
Halak, who appeared in just six regular-season games this season for Montreal, replaced fellow rookie Carey Price
to start the third period after Price yielded three goals on 12 shots. Halak needed to make just two saves in his first playoff stint as a furious Montreal rally fell short in a 3-2 Flyers victory. Montreal, which now trails this best-of-seven, 2-1, will look to even the series tomorrow when it returns to Philadelphia for Game 4 (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
“We know we have two great goalies and we dress both of them, knowing coming into the game that there was a chance (goalies) they could change,’’ Canadiens center Maxim Lapierre
said. “I don’t think Carey Price
is struggling right now. We feel he will come back strong since these things happen. They weren’t bad goals, but bad bounces. We know he’ll be there for us the next game.’’
Halak, assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League for much of the 2007-08 season, was named the full-time backup to Price following the trade of Cristobal Huet
to the Washington Capitals
on Feb. 26.
Canadiens center Saku Koivu
, who pulled his team within 3-2 on a power-play goal 8:41 into the third, agreed with Lapierre.
“Carey showed in the first round his ability to bounce back and his ability to regroup,’’ Koivu said. “You can ask any goaltender in games in which their team has a considerable edge in shots and chances that those aren’t easy games to play in. There’s no concern on our part regarding Carey. Right now, it’s more about our team concept and the need to play better as a team.’’
In Montreal’s seven-game elimination of the Boston Bruins
in the opening round, Price became the fifth rookie NHL goalie in the last 15 years to win four games in his first career playoff round, joining Ray Emery
of Ottawa, Ryan Miller
of Buffalo, Cam Ward
of Carolina and Brian Boucher
of Philadelphia. He also made 25 saves in a 5-0 victory on April 21 to become the fourth rookie in history to record a shutout in a Game 7.
Neither goalie was made available for comment following the game.
“I would hate to give you excuses and try to explain myself, so I’m not going to do that,’’ Koivu said. “We must find a little bit extra right now and, at the same time, be patient and positive. We can’t look to win the game in the opening 10-to-15 minutes. It’s going to be a long series. We’re being tested right now; they’re clearing the second pucks away and their goalie is pretty hot. But so long as we keep putting pucks on the net, good things will eventually happen.’’
Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau
felt the change in goal was necessary.
“Carey gave up three goals and I felt as though we needed another goalie in net in the third, so I told Jaroslav to get ready,’’ Carbonneau said. “I thought Jaro did a good job. The guys are a little frustrated right now, but we’ll find a way. The last half of this game, (the Flyers) couldn’t stay with us. We feel we just have to keep playing the way we have been.’’
Carbonneau admitted Price, who has allowed 10 goals on 68 shots (.871 save percentage) in this series, will be back in net for Game 4 tomorrow night.
“He’s 20-years old and we’re trying to ask this kid to be the savior for our club,’’ Carbonneau said. “But again, you can’t ignore the fact that we have a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes in the first, with our best five players on the ice, and couldn’t score. Maybe we should blame them. This is a team game and we lost as a team so everybody is to blame; not just one guy. I’ll take some of the blame as well.
“Carey has proven in the past that he can bounce back strong,’’ Carbonneau said. “We’re going to have to sit down tomorrow afternoon when we all have clear heads and can talk softly. He’ll be fine.’’
According to Flyers center Danny Briere
, the benching of Price was no big deal.
“It didn’t change anything,’’ Briere said. “We don’t care about who plays for them. The focus is all on us and that’s what we have to worry about. We can’t worry about what they’re thinking. There were shots with screens and as soon as we get close to (Price), he is pushing everybody and you can tell he’s a little frustrated. That’s the only way to beat him. We know he’s a good goalie, so we just have to keep going to the net.’’
Price was also tripped up late in the opening period when he ventured to the left-wing corner to retrieve a loose puck, only to get flipped to the ice when Flyers winger Steve Downie
impeded his route.
The fact the Flyers were out-shot for the third-straight game in this series was also a non-issue to Briere. The Canadiens held a decisive 34-14 advantage in shots, including 17-2 in the third, and finished 2-for-8 on the power-play.
“We’ve been out-shot all year long and still made the playoffs,’’ he admitted. “When you’re killing as many penalties as we were, there comes a point when you’re going to be on your heels, as we were tonight. We were trying to defend as much as possible.'’