arizona priceCarey Price made 29 saves, 16 of them in the third period as the Canadiens shut out the Arizona Coyotes 2-0 Saturday night at Phoenix. Lars Eller scored what proved to be the game winner at 14:48 of the second period. The game remained 1-0 until Brendan Gallagher scored into the empty net with two seconds remaining. Final shots on goal were 35-29 in favour of the Canadiens. The game’s three stars were Price, Arizona goaltender Mike Smith and Eller.

With the win the Canadiens become the second team to reach 90 points this season. They trail Anaheim by one point for the overall league lead with a game in hand.

Adding It Up –

Making It Hard – I keep asking the question – Why do the Canadiens make things hard on themselves? They were playing a team that had stripped itself in preparation for a lottery draft pick in June and yet, there the Canadiens were in the third period again hanging on by a thread. Halfway through the third period the Canadiens were being outshot 11-4 by the Coyotes and looked lost in their own end.

Rising to the Occasion – In the first three minutes of that third period Arizona poured eight shots on Carey Price. Shots six – seven and eight were the ones that cemented the shutout as Price and the win for the Canadiens. They came in a three second sequence. Price first stopped Lauri Korpikoski then David Moss twice. Moss’ second shot landed on top of Price’s pad and Price back in the net. The play was reviewed and ruled no goal because he had been shoved into the net.

The Dominator – If there is such a thing as a grand slam for hockey goaltenders, Price might be in line to be one of the first to accomplish the feat. The shutout was Price’s 7th of the season, one behind league leader Marc-Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh. He leads the NHL in the other three categories and it’s not very close. His goals-against average is 1.92. Next best in the league is Devon Dubnyk at 2.09 and Pekka Rinne who is often mentioned in the same breath as Price for the Vezina is now at 2.14. Price’s save percentage is .935. Next best is Corey Schneider‘s .928. And this game was his 37th win of the season, two more than Rinne.

All Forgiven Lars Eller may have been unfairly handed the goat label after that penalty he took late in the game against Los Angeles. His game winner was a matter of being where you like to see him – in front of the net and involved. He got Devante Smith-Pelly‘s pass and with no shooting lane, simply wheeled away from the check and threw it at the net catching Mike Smith moving.

 arizona smithGood For Both Teams – The Ducks have to be very happy with the way Jiri Sekac is playing out in Anaheim. You’ll hear no complaints from anyone around here about the contributions Devante Smith-Pelle has made for the Canadiens. We knew about his physical presence but what about his offense. Five of the eight shots he took in the game were on-goal. If the Desharnais line was the Canadiens best in this game, then de la Rose/Smith-Pelly/Eller was one-A. The line contributed ten shots to the total of 35 in the game.

Puck Luck – The tendancy would be to worry when a goalscorer of Max Pacioretty’s magnitude stops finding the net. Usually it’s because the scoring chances have disappeared. Stop fretting. Pacioretty had another 6 shots on goal in this game. (He had 20 shots in the four games of the trip). This was his best of the three – not only six shots but also seven scoring chances.

Also Worth Mentioning – ……Scouting reports said that the flaw in Jeff Petry‘s game was a lack of physical presence. Must be the company he’s keeping. He led the Canadiens with six hits. After feeling his way in that first game in San Jose, he has produced 15 hits. Love the way he moves the puck too. ……Michel Therrien really loves Jacob de la Rose. Not only did the kid center one of the Canadiens best lines, Therrien had him out on the ice in the final minute of a 1-0 game with the Arizona goaltender out. …..We’re used to seeing good nights in the faceoff circle from Tomas Plekanec but Torrey Mitchell? Brian Flynn centred the fourth line but Mitchell took all of the faceoffs and won 11 of 16 which matched Plekanec’s total for the night. ……I guess Brendan Gallagher will have to tell us when he thinks he has had a bad game. I can’t tell. In my eyes he seems to be great every night. Ten shots – 6 of them on goal; two hits and two takeaways.

Moving On – The Canadiens return home to face Tampa Bay Tuesday might at the Bell Centre. The Lightning have been a problem, winning both meeting so far by 7-1 and 4-2 scores. But it’s the Canadiens who lead the Eastern Conference by two points over Tampa with a game in hand. After the Lightning it’s Ottawa at the Bell Centre Thursday followed by three in a row on the road. Believe it or not, only sixteen games left on the schedule – 8 home; 8 away.