MONTREAL – Michel Therrien’s lessons about finishing off games appear to be paying off for the Montreal Canadiens.
For a second straight game, Montreal held the opposition below 20 shots on goal en route to a 3-0 shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
“You have to learn how to win and this part of that process. We’ve had two games (lately) like this where it’s tied 0-0 heading into the third and we find a way to win,” said Therrien, the Canadiens’ head coach.
“We’re starting to feel more and more comfortable about playing those tight games. It’s a great sign,” he added. “It’s good for the confidence of the team, of the players. Good teams start to feel comfortable in those games.…
“I don’t see any panic, guys are sticking to the plan.”
Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty scored 18 seconds apart in the third period, while Brandon Prust also scored for Montreal’s fourth straight win.
Peter Budaj, making his second straight start for Montreal (10-4-1) while No. 1 netminder Carey Price recovered from a bout with the flu, stopped 19 shots in recording his 10th career shutout. He’s seen just one puck get by him in the two games.
“The guys knew that they had to perform better in front of Peter—he’s always there for them. He always has a good attitude, never complains about anything, and I really liked the way that our team played in the last two games in front of him,” Therrien said of his goalie, who was lit up for nine goals in his first two starts, both losses.
While not often tested, Budaj came through when his team needed it, including some key stops in the late stages of the second as the Hurricanes pressed.
“It’s tough but as I said last time, you’ve got to be ready,” Budaj, who picked up his 10th career shutout, said of low shot totals he’s faced. “They’ve got a very good team. They’re a hardworking team that has a lot of offensive power, even though they have a few guys hurt.”
The Hurricanes (8-5-1) were without forward Jeff Skinner (upper body) as well as injured defencemen Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason. But they weren’t about to turn to that as an excuse for a loss that snapped their three-game winning streak.
“We’re missing some key guys, yeah…but you’re going to have injuries and everyone’s going to go through it,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said.
“We didn’t have that same killer instinct, we didn’t have that shooting mentality, and we weren’t attacking like we normally do. We just didn’t have our best game tonight.”
Prust broke the scoreless deadlock 2:06 into the third period. Lars Eller led the rush through the neutral zone before dishing off to Alex Galchenyuk. The Canadiens rookie evaded Hurricanes defenceman Bobby Sanguinetti with some slick moves before finding Prust driving to the net.
“When he’s going and dangling like that, sometimes you’ve got to make sure you don’t just stop and watch,” Prust said of his 19-year-old linemate. “I’ve learned to keep my stick on the ice when he’s got the puck because he’ll find you, sometimes when you don’t think he’s going to get it to you.”
The Canadiens would double and triple their lead with strikes from Plekanec and Pacioretty.
At 12:03, Plekanec’s slapshot from inside the left circle bounced off of Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward and into the net. Pacioretty scored his first of the season when his innocent-looking flip-in from left side of the red line bounced past Ward.
“That’s what we talked about in the intermission–we wanted to get off to a good start and start putting the pressure on them right away,” said Prust. “They kind of took it to us a little bit at the end of the second so we wanted to come out and change that momentum.”
NOTES–After missing Saturday’s game, Price was back in the lineup, dressed as Budaj’s backup…The Canadiens were without rookie winger Brendan Gallagher (concussion) while Yannick Weber and Tomas Kaberle were healthy scratches…Gallagher’s absence saw forward Ryan White draw back into the lineup for the first time since Feb. 7 in Buffalo.