MONTREAL – After struggling badly in his first two pre-season starts, Carey Price redeemed himself in front of a demanding Bell Centre crowd.
Price made 19 saves and picked up his first win as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Florida Panthers 6-2 in pre-season action Monday night.
“They were very supportive,” said Price of 21,273 fans in attendance. “It makes things way easier, easier on me and easier on my teammates.”
Price had been scored on 10 times in 90 minutes heading into the game. It was his first start at the Bell Centre since the fans booed him in Montreal’s pre-season opener.
He gave up six goals in his previous start in Ottawa on Saturday.
“We all wanted to play better and not have what happened in Ottawa snowball,” said Price. “I felt the same as I did in Ottawa, but we played better.”
Tomas Plekanec led the way offensively for the Canadiens with a pair of goals. They exploded offensively in the third period with four goals, three in the span of 3:45.
“It was a 2-1 game heading into the third period and I thought we were in decent shape,” said Panthers coach Peter DeBoer.
Florida opened the scoring midway through the first period on their second power play opportunity of the game. With Alex Henry in the box for high sticking, David Booth got a rebound in the slot and beat Price.
Moments before the goal, Montreal had an extended 5-on-3 advantage but failed to register a shot on goal.
Montreal evened things at 15:57 when Jaroslav Spacek fired a knuckler that hit Florida defenceman Dmitry Kulikov’s skate and got by Tomas Vokoun stick-side.
Plekanec put Montreal up 2-1 at 18:29 with a short-handed goal on a wrap-around after picking the puck up at his own blue-line.
The Panthers replaced Vokoun with Jacob Markstrom at start the third period and things got off to a rough start for the young goaltender.
Tom Pyatt took a feed from Ben Maxwell and scored with a slapshot that beat Markstrom between the legs just 44 seconds into the period.
Plekanec got his second goal of the game throwing the puck to the front of the net and banking it off Florida’s Erik Gudbranson’s skate and in.
Ryan White, who’s been turning heads at in the pre-season, finished off the three-goal rally scoring on a breakaway.
“He’s been having a good camp, I like how he competes and what he brings night in and night out,” Canadiens coach Jaques Martin said of White. “We have a couple more games to look at him.”
Florida got a late power play-goal from Stephen Weiss, pouncing on a rebound from a Booth shot.
With seconds remaining Mike Cammalleri snuck in behind the defence and padded Montreal’s lead.
Cammalleri finished the night with two goals and an assist and found himself at some points playing the point on the power play.
“I don’t mind going back there, I did it a few times in Los Angeles and Calgary,” Cammalleri said. “Once in awhile I like it.”
Lars Eller made the most of his second opportunity to play alongside some of the premier players from Montreal’s lineup, contributing three assists on a line with Cammalleri and Plekanec.
Vokoun played the first two periods and was beat twice on 21 shots. Markstrom allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced. He settled down after the onslaught and finished with nine saves on 13 shots.
It was Florida’s first loss of the pre-season and their record falls to 3-1-0. Playing for a fourth consecutive night, Montreal improved to 3-2-0.
Notes: Prior to Monday’s game against the Panthers, the Canadiens made 18 player cuts including their last two first round picks Louis Leblanc and Jarred Tinordi who were sent to their Junior teams. The other 16 players were assigned to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. … Max Pacioretty didn’t play due to an upper body injury. … Jean Beliveau presented a trophy named after himself to Maxim Lapierre in recognition of his charitable work in the community. … After the game the Canadiens cut Andreas Engqvist, Gabriel Dumont, David Desharnais, Peter Delams and Mathieu Carle.