MONTREAL — When you’re protecting a one-goal lead and the net is empty at the other end of the ice, the last thing you’re expecting to see is a 4-on-1 rush coming your way.
But that was the situation Carey Price faced Tuesday night in the final minute of the game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Defenceman Josh Gorges wasn’t the only player between Price and a pack of hungry Coyotes.
Gorges waited for the pass from the lead man and ended the threat when he blocked a shot by Radim Vrbata.
“That was a huge play at the end of the game,” Price said. “I took the shot and he took the pass and he made an excellent play.”
“We were pushing the puck in their end like we want to,” Gorges said. “We had an empty net and the puck came around to the point like it was supposed to, but they jumped on him and they were all moving this way as the puck was turned over at the blue line.
“You play it like a 2-on-1 even though there are four guys coming,” Gorges said. “You try not to overthink it. I knew I had Carey behind me, which gives me confidence to make my play. I give him the shot and I got fortunate. You try to play close enough to the shooter to make him hesitate if he wants to shoot, but still in a lane where you can cover the pass and get your stick. The whole idea is to make him change his mind at the last second.”
The block meant Price had to make one less save on a night when the only puck to get past him came on a strange play when it appeared that one of his teammates may have steered the puck into the net.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Price said. “I knew it wasn’t a clean shot, but we got some bounces go our way at the end.”
The difference was a couple of power play goals in the third period and the bounces did indeed go the Canadiens’ way. Mike Smith got a piece of a shot by Andrei Markov, but allowed it to trickle through his pads.
And Max Pacioretty scored the winner when a pass intended for Brendan Gallagher bounced off Michael Stone’s skates.
“I was where I was supposed to be,” said the feisty Gallagher, who was also in front of the net looking for a rebound on Markov’s goal.
The Canadiens have the second-best defensive record in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins but have had trouble scoring in the past two weeks.
“It’s been a little give and take,” Price said. “Sometimes, when you play well defensively, goals are hard to come by, but tonight we stayed patient. We’re pretty comfortable playing a in a tight, low-scoring game. That’s been the difference the last couple of years.”
Price said the Canadiens gained some momentum after killing off a double-minor penalty to Brandon Prust in the second period.
Said Price: “They might have had one shot at the end of the four minutes. That was a big turning point for us.”
Price said he wasn’t surprised that Pacioretty notched the winner after hitting three posts earlier in the game.
“He has one of the best shots in the league,” Price said. “He rips them past me in practice all the time and it was only a matter of time before he hit one tonight.”
Coach Michel Therrien, who has a reputation for juggling his forward lines, made an in-game adjustment to his defence. He paired Markov with fellow Russian Alexei Emelin and used Gorges with P.K. Subban.
“We haven’t been happy with our transition,” Therrien said. “We moved things around so that we have one puck-moving defenceman in each pair — Markov, Subban and (Raphael) Diaz.”
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