MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price did not start the third period of a 7-2 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers on Saturday, but coach Michel Therrien said the move was not related to an injury.
Price appeared to injure his right knee at 3:15 of the second period in a collision with Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who was knocked slightly off-balance as he rushed in on goal and slammed into Price's right leg. Price remained down for a few moments clutching at his right knee but quickly got up and skated.
Therrien said he did not believe Kreider slammed into Price intentionally.
"I think it was accidental, honestly," he said. "The fact [Price] didn't play in the third period was more to protect him than anything because we were not sharp in front of him."
Kreider and Brad Richards scored at 18:59 and 19:48 of the second period to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead.
From Kreider's point of view, his collision into Price came as a result of pressure from Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin as he was trying to break in on goal.
"I thought Emelin was coming across pretty hard so I chipped it ahead," Kreider said. "[The puck] wasn't really sitting for me, so I had my head down trying to settle the puck. I put it wide and somehow lost my footing. I thought maybe someone pressured me from behind. I seem to have an issue staying on my feet on those, but then I went in skates first and I just had too much momentum and couldn't really avoid him. It didn't feel too good for me either."
Therrien sent backup Peter Budaj out to start the final period. In his first game action of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Budaj allowed a goal on the first shot he saw, by Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Budaj allowed the final three goals on eight shots.
Price missed eight games coming out of the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics due to a lower-body injury he aggravated while representing Canada and winning the gold medal. The Canadiens were very careful with his rehabilitation from the injury in order to make sure he would be prepared for the grind of the playoffs.
Therrien was asked three times in two languages if Price was injured and said each time he wasn't.
"You never want to see your goalie lying on the ice," Therrien said, "but the fact we didn't bring him out for the third period had nothing to do with it."