TAMPA — Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has always had a tendency to struggle when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, and the first game of this year’s postseason was no exception.
Price struggled in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Lightning on Wednesday, allowing four goals on 25 shots. But when he had to be, he was back in world-class form in Game 2 at the Forum on Friday night.
Though he admitted he wasn’t tested all that much, Price stopped all but one of the 27 shots he faced in leading Montreal to a 4-1 victory. The win gave the Canadiens a 2-0 edge in games in the best-of-seven series.
“They threw a lot of pucks toward the net, but we’ve got those guys out in front of me that are willing to do whatever it takes to blocks shots, and that helped me a lot,” Price said.
The Canadiens were credited with 11 blocked shots in the game, but Price made the biggest block of all when he got his left leg pad on a shot from rookie Cedric Paquette in the second period.
Taking a pass fed through the crease by Teddy Purcell, Paquette tried to beat Price with a simple redirection from the edge of the crease. Price answered, though, with a stiff denial.
“It was really just an act of desperation,” Price said. “I was just trying to put anything on it that I could. I mean, it’s my job to stop pucks and I was fortunate enough to get a pad on that one.”
It’s the job of the Lightning forwards to create scoring chances and score goals, but the feeling in their locker room after this one was that they didn’t necessarily do a good job of that.
“He played well,” Lightning center Ryan Callahan said of Price. “He made some key saves, especially in the second period, but we obviously didn’t generate enough against him.
“Against a guy like that, a guy that is that good, you have to get more looks. One shot and out isn’t going to get it done. We needed to get in there and get some rebounds, and we didn’t do that.”
Purcell, who had not scored a goal since March 20 — a span of 12 games — was the only one to solve Price.
However, his goal came late in the third period, long after the outcome had been decided.
“We know he’s a world-class goalie, and he was good when he had to be tonight, but we didn’t get as many quality chances on him as we would have hoped to,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who scored twice against Price in the series opener. “I thought the second period was one of our better periods. We got the puck in deep and created some chances there, but after going down 2-0 in that period we didn’t respond the way we wanted to in the third.
“We just have to get back to simplifying the game for ourselves and being confident. There’s going to be nerves, and we know it’s a different stage, but we have to play with confidence.”