MONTREAL – Carey Price said it may have been his best game of the season.
The Montreal goaltender made 34 saves for his third shutout of the campaign as the Canadiens downed the struggling New York Rangers 3-0 on Saturday night.
But he gave a lot of credit to his defence.
“The guys did a great job of blocking guys out,” said Price, who shut out New York for the second time this season while posting his 19th clean sheet of his career. “I saw most of the shots and the ones I didn’t just seemed to hit me.
“They had a few scoring chances, but they cleared a lot of garbage and blocked a lot of shots.”
Michael Ryder and Tomas Plekanec scored in the first period and Brendan Gallagher got one in the second for the Canadiens (22-7-5), who swept their three games with New York this season, outscoring them 9-1.
The Canadiens moved three points clear of Boston in first place in the Northeast Division.
Price bounced back after allowing four goals in two periods to the Bruins in what turned out to be a 6-5 shootout victory in Boston on Wednesday night. Backup Peter Budaj got the win that night.
“That was a tough game, but that happens in hockey,” Price said. “The move was justified and it worked out for us. We don’t really need to go back on that game too much.”
P.K. Subban had three assists to give him 27 points in 28 games, tied for second in the league among defencemen behind Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang. The slick blue-liner wasn’t surprised to see Price rebound with a big performance.
“To be honest, I thought it was a pretty routine game for him,” said Subban. “The thing about Price is he makes the saves look easy.
“A lot of them weren’t. But no one’s surprised here. He’s one of the best goaltenders in the league. For me, it was just another game for him.”
The Rangers (16-15-3), the NHL’s lowest-scoring team, were coming off a 3-0 shutout loss in Ottawa on Thursday night. Once again, they failed to score for goalie Martin Biron, who has seen his team shut out in his last four starts in Montreal since 2011.
They had chances, particularly in the first period when they threw 17 pucks at Price, but nothing went in. Derek Stepan looked certain to score into an open side on a rebound during a first period power play, but Alexei Elemin got a piece of stick and the shot sailed high.
J.T. Miller had two glittering chances foiled by Price, while Ryan Callahan had five fruitless shots.
New York is on the bubble for a playoff spot and is back on the ice Monday night at home against another team in the same situation, Winnipeg.
“We have to stay positive,” said coach John Tortorella. “We’ll try to correct some things that are going wrong, but we’ll work on the positives.
“We developed some scoring chances and just didn’t score.”
The Rangers were expected to be an elite team in the Eastern Conference this season, but now they need to find their game with 14 contests left in the lockout-shortened season.
“We skated hard,” said Tortorella. “We forechecked and developed scoring chances.
“But we can’t have any moral victories here. We need to finish at key times. We have to change momentum our way.”
The Rangers’ offensive woes continued through the first period as the Canadiens grabbed an early 2-0 lead.
Ryder was buying time for his team during a line change when he played a puck off the end boards. It hit the side of the net and came right back to him to slide in for his fifth goal in the last five games only 47 seconds in.
Subban came out of the penalty box to join a two-on-one break, but Plekanec opted to shoot and picked the far corner at 18:11.
Montreal was on a power play in the second frame when a Subban’s point shot caused a melee in front of Biron until Gallagher dug the puck out and lifted it over the fallen goalie at 11:02.
First-round draft pick Nathan Beaulieu made his NHL debut on defence and looked nervous at times, but the 20-year-old got one shot on goal in 17:17 of ice time, including some power play time. It was more playing time than two other rookie defencemen—Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn—got in games when they were called up from AHL Hamilton earlier this month.
“Nathan played a solid game,” said coach Michel Therrien. “He made some good passes.
“Defensively he wasn’t out of place. For a first game, we’re pleased.”
Marian Gaborik’s much-publicized demotion to the fourth line lasted one shift. Then he joined Brad Richards’ unit.
Notes—The Canadiens put defenceman Tomas Kaberle on waivers, perhaps to free space for a trade before Wednesday’s deadline. . . Brandon Prust returned after missing eight games with a shoulder injury. . . The Rangers gave Biron the start after Henrik Lundqvist, who struggles against Montreal, played nine straight. . . Mats Zuccarello, who returned to New York this week from the KHL, played his first game back with his former club. . . Darroll Powe, Aaron Asham and Matt Gilroy were scratched for NY.