MONTREAL – A quick glance at the scoresheet won’t necessarily lead people to believe that struggling Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price turned a corner during Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.
But for the man who decided to hand the net back to Price after he allowed four goals on 15 shots in his last start, the young goaltender made a statement.
“He made good saves for us in the first half of the game when the score was within a goal, he made good saves against dangerous players,” said Habs general manager and head coach Bob Gainey. “I just felt he looked calmer, he looked more like he was going to play his game.”
Price allowed the Canadiens to enter the second period tied 1-1 despite being outshot by the Thrashers 10-4, but his biggest moment was a spectacular glove save off Ilya Kovalchuk to maintain a 3-2 lead in the second.
The Canadiens scored less than a minute later and the rout was on, but Price wasn’t willing to acknowledge the significance of the highlight-reel stop.
“I just closed my eyes and it went in my glove,” said Price with no trace of a smile. “I carried on from there.”
In fact, it was his teammates who appeared to get a major lift from the save considering Price’s struggles since returning from an ankle injury on Jan 20.
Price has allowed at least three goals in 15 of his last 19 starts since his return and Tuesday was just his fifth victory over that span, while his counterpart Jaroslav Halak has been the better of the two with five wins in 10 starts over the same period.
But Habs captain Saku Koivu said the stop on Kovalchuk was the key play that allowed the Canadiens to take control of Tuesday’s game.
“Throughout the game there are a lot of plays you can look at as a turning point, either a big hit or a block or the goalie makes a big save like that one,” Koivu said. “Instead of giving the momentum to their team he kept it on our side and gave us a second chance to take that two-goal lead.”
Gainey decided not to announce his starting goalie for Tuesday night’s game until the morning skate, and it was a difficult decision to make.
But with Price’s performance against the Thrashers, that decision may be a little easier for Montreal’s next game Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.