MONTREAL – Carey Price was rock solid in his first full game back since abruptly leaving last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs with a knee injury.
Price stopped 29 of 30 shots he faced in Montreal’s 2-0 loss to the visiting Washington Capitals in NHL pre-season action on Sunday.
“It’s nice to get a full workload, to see some shots, work on my timing a little bit,” said Price, who conceded the game-winner to Washington’s Joel Ward with 89 seconds remaining in the third period. “It’s something that really leaves you during the summertime. It’s probably the hardest thing to get back, that pace of the game.”
Price kept the Canadiens (3-1-0) in the scoreless contest with several key saves, including robbing Nathan Walker mid-way through the second period. Price added back-to-back stops in the third period on Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
“It feels good to get back into it,” said the native of Anahim Lake, B.C. “Just getting some game action obviously helps. It’s critical to get that timing back.”
Price played just over 30 minutes in Montreal’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Colorado Avalanche earlier this week, allowing two goals on 10 shots before being replaced by backup goaltender Peter Budaj.
This was the first time Price played a game from start to finish since Montreal’s Game 7 victory over the rival Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinal last May. The Canadiens goalie was injured in the first game of the following round when New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider slid into him skates-first. Montreal was eliminated from that series in six games.
“Price played unbelievable,” said right-winger Dale Weise of Sunday’s 29-save performance. “It’s just a shame we couldn’t bail him out.”
After a sloppy and penalty-filled affair—a total 12 minor penalties were dished out by the referees—Ward scored the winner, his first of the pre-season, at 18:31 of the third period when his backhanded saucer shot flew into the net just out of the reach of Price.
“We knew that the goal was going to be a bad bounce, or a greasy one like that,” said P.K. Subban, who finished the game with a minus-2 rating. “At the end of the day, for some of us, it’s only our second game. We have to slowly build.”
The Capitals (3-2-0) went 4-for-13 on the power play in their first four pre-season games coming into this one, but were kept off the score sheet with the man advantage on Sunday.
Washington played a total 10:14 with an extra skater. Barry Trotz’s men squandered five power-play opportunities in the first two periods, and another one in the third—a five-minute major to prospect Jarred Tinordi for elbowing.
Tinordi, who played 22 games with the Habs last year, was shown the exit two minutes into the final period when he hit an unsuspecting Nate Schmidt in the face with his shoulder. With Schmidt lying on the ice, Capitals forward Chris Brown dropped the gloves and fought Tinordi.
New head coach Trotz, previously with the Nashville Predators, loved that Brown came to the defence of 23-year-old Schmidt.
“You have to pick up your teammates, and that was a big example,” said Trotz, who was hired by the Capitals in May. “We never want to leave a man behind, type of thing. Schmidt took a big hit, and the cavalry came out to help him. That’s the mentality you want.”
Tinordi was given five minutes for elbowing, five minutes for fighting, and a 10-minute game misconduct. The 22-year-old had already been penalized twice in the match—for tripping and for kneeing in the first period. He ended the game with a grand total 24 penalty minutes.
“He’s so big, and he’s such a good skater for a big man,” said Weise of Tinordi. “That’s bound to happen. That’s the game he has to play, and that’s the game we want him to play. If he starts throwing a couple more of those, guys are going to be more careful coming across the blue line.”
Added Subban of the hit: “From what I saw, it looked pretty clean. I don’t think he got his elbow up or anything like that. I like it when he plays like that. It’s fun to watch. He’s a big guy, and he throws his weight around.”
Backup goaltender Justin Peters stopped all seven shots he faced for Washington before being replaced by Braden Holtby mid-way through the second period. Holtby made an additional 11 saves for the combined shutout.
One minute after Ward broke the deadlock, Brooks Laich added a second goal for the Capitals in an empty net.
Prior to the match, Montreal assigned 17 players to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, including Tim Bozon, Patrick Holland, and Charles Hudon. Forward Nikita Scherbak was assigned to his junior team, the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips.
Montreal opens its season on Oct. 8 against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
Notes: Lars Eller played in his first pre-season game after missing the team’s first three with a lower-body injury.…Ovechkin, who led the NHL in power-play goals last year, didn’t register a point after scoring twice his last time out.…It took Montreal 11:17 to register its first shot of the game, a backhand shot by Alex Galchenyuk that Peters saved easily.…Four players still taking part in Montreal’s training camp have never played a regular season NHL game: Darren Dietz, Sven Andrighetto, Jacob de la Rose, and Jiri Sekac.