MONTREAL – If the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning go into a shootout, things won’t look bright for the Bolts.
Of the eight victories posted by the Canadiens this season, only one was in regulation time. But they are 4-0 in overtime and 3-0 in shootouts, including their 2-1 win Thursday night in Boston.
The Lightning are 0-4 in shootouts this season, and all 14 of their shooters have been stopped. Over the last two seasons, their shootout record is 3-14.
“It’s mental more than anything now,” Tampa Bay star Martin St-Louis said Friday. “You lose a few and you start second guessing yourself.”
The 8-8-0 Canadiens play host to 5-4-5 Tampa Bay on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
Overtime and shootouts are usually a toss-up, but all have gone Montreal’s way so far this season. Between them, goalies Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price have stopped all seven shooters they have faced in the penalty-shot contests.
Price took a six-game losing streak into Boston, but had one of his best starts of the season as he turned away 42 shots against a Bruins lineup depleted by injuries or illness to forwards Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
He had a shutout going until he was beaten by Patrice Bergeron in the final minute of regulation time with the Bruins playing with six attackers.
When overtime failed to settle the issue, it went to a shootout. Mike Cammalleri beat Tim Thomas on Montreal’s first shot, while Price stopped Blake Wheeler, Bergeron and Mark Recchi in succession for his 50th career win.
“It was important – I didn’t want to lose that game after playing so hard for 65 minutes, especially in a game like that where we gave up a goal after 59 minutes,” said Price. “I wanted to make sure we got that win.
“Especially for me, because I’d lost so many games in a row.”
On the final shot by Recchi, Price threw conventional wisdom aside and came out to pokecheck the Bruins’ veteran.
Under his previous goaltending coach Roland Melanson, pokechecks were taboo, but Price has more latitude under new coach Pierre Groulx.
“It’s a high-risk play and I think that’s why Rolie wanted to keep it down,” said Price. “If you miss, you’re pretty much screwed, so if you do it, you have to be 100 per cent sure you’ll make the play.
“I don’t think (Recchi) expected me to do that because it’s not something I normally do, so I caught him by surprise. You won’t see that often, but it’s a card up the sleeve.”
Price was not expected to start the game, but back-up Jaroslav Halak was under the weather and the Canadiens’ blue chip goaltending prospect got a second start in a row, despite a 5-4 loss Tuesday night to Atlanta.
He didn’t disappoint, and now he will likely be back in goal against Tampa Bay, who will end a four-game road trip on which they are 1-1-1 so far.
“I’ve always enjoyed shootouts,” added Price. “It’s a lot of fun.
“Everything’s focused on the goalie and the shooter. It’s tough when you get scored on two or three times in a row, but when you win it’s pretty satisfying.”
Halak said he is healthy again and ready to play. Coach Jacques Martin never announces who will be in goal until the day of the game.
His main concern now is on defence, where three of his top six are injured – Andrei Markov, Ryan O’Byrne and Hal Gill.
The Canadiens got a scare in Boston when rearguard Jaroslav Spacek was shaken up after a collision with Danile Paille, but the Czech veteran was able to return after missing a few shifts and said he was OK.
Still, the Canadiens reached out for defensive help Friday by claiming journeyman Jay Leach off re-entry waivers from the New Jersey Devils.
The six-foot-five, 225-pound Leach played two games for Boston in 2005-06, two for Tampa Bay in 2007-08 and 24 for Devils last season. He has no goals and one career assist. The 30-year-old native of Syracuse, N.Y., played 12 games this season for the AHL Lowell Devils.
Notes: Veteran forward Brian Gionta missed practice Wednesday for a “therapy day,” played Thursday, then took Friday off for another therapy day. . . Recent call-ups Ryan White and Tom Pyatt looked good in their NHL debuts in Boston and likely will play again against the Bolts. White picked up his first NHL assist on Andrei Kostitsyn’s goal. . . Price has a new mask made for Remembrance Day featuring poppies and the phrase Lest We Forget. He will wear it Tuesday night against Calgary and Thursday night in Phoenix. He now has five masks and said he may have more painted this season. “Some of these will get donated to charity,” he said. “If I can do it, why not? Masks are a unique piece of equipment in sports. There are not too many sports where you can put your personality or ideas on a helmet.”