Price backstopped the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 2-1 win over the Manitoba Moose in Game 1 of the AHL’s North Division final series. He turned aside 26 of 27 shots fired his way en route to his fifth win of the playoffs.
Hamilton now leads the best-of-seven Calder Cup playoff series 1-0.
“The lighting is good out there,” joked Price. “The guys did a good job of clearing the net and clearing any rebounds that popped out.”
“I thought he was real solid,” said Hamilton coach Don Lever. “A couple (times) there in the third, the one that got behind himamaybe (he lacked) a little focus there and was battle the puck a bit. He’s a big man and he’s playing big.”
Bulldogs’ defencemen Andre Benoit scored the game winner on the power play with just over five minutes left to play in the third period. Taking a beautiful cross-ice pass from Mikhail Grabovski, Benoit one-timed a slapshot past Moose goaltender Drew MacIntyre for his first goal of the post-season.
Ajay Baines scored the other Hamilton goal, while Lee Goren had the lone Manitoba goal.
“We were a little sloppy at times,” said Goren, who now has two goals in the playoffs. “I think we created a little bit of offence, but obviously not enough. They played their trap style game that works for them and they played real well.”
Both teams showed little life in the opening period as there wasn’t lot of action early on. The only real scoring chance for either team came with Manitoba on a two-man advantage, when Yannick Tremblay rang a point shot off the post. The Moose outshot the Bulldogs in first period eight to five, but they didn’t record their first shot until the 7:25 mark.
The second period saw Hamilton control most of the play, testing MacIntyre with eight shots. Baines’ second goal of the postseason at 6:55 was the lone highlight for the Bulldogs. Playing four-on-four, Baines picked off an errant pass from Jesse Schultz at his own blueline. Taking it in all alone on MacIntyre, Baines snapped a shot high blocker side to give his team the lead.
“He was real solid,” said Lever. “He’s what the organization wanted to do to bring in some quality people around the young guys and he has a heck of a game. He’s a leader in the room and a leader on the ice and he was rewarded.”
Manitoba thought they had finally beaten Price just over six minutes into the third period as Brad Moran’s shot went over the netminder’s shoulder. The puck trickled close to the goal line before Baines tucked it back under Price.
Hamilton withstood Manitoba’s third period pressure and Benoit seemingly iced the game late with his goal. The Moose fought back and showed some life late though, as Goren cut the lead to 2-1 with a shorthanded goal with :25 seconds left to play. It was too little, too late for Manitoba.
Both teams struggled on the power play combining to go one-for-13 with the man advantage, which included a lengthy two-man advantage for the Moose which could have swung the momentum in their favour early in the first period.
The Moose outshot the Bulldogs 27-24 overall. MacIntyre played well in net for Manitoba, stopping 22 of 24 shots.
This series resumes Sunday night at MTS Centre in Winnipeg.