MONTREAL — Josh Gorges says a team’s penalty-killing shouldn’t be measured by its percentage at the end of the season.
“It’s about when the opportunity comes with the game on the line, does your penalty-killing unit get the job done,” Gorges said. “And we had to do that tonight. We stepped up and killed it for the last 56 seconds or whatever it was.”
The Canadiens preserved a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins Saturday night at the Bell Centre as Gorges, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen combined to negate a 6-on-4 advantage.
Lars Eller became entangled with Zdeno Chara and was called for holding with 56.4 seconds showing on the clock. It was a penalty, but after the hulking Chara fell to the ice, Eller couldn’t resist bringing up Boston coach Claude Julien’s comments earlier this season about the Canadiens’ embellishing penalty calls.
“I must be really strong,” said Eller, who gives away seven inches and 46 pounds to Chara. “Can we say the E-word? But I shouldn’t have put myself in that position.”
The Canadiens received some help in killing the penalty because the Bruins were reluctant to shoot the puck and let time run out without taking a shot.
Some of that was due to the Canadiens’ pressure on the puck. A renewed aggressiveness has transformed the Montreal penalty-killing unit from one of the worst in the league to one of the best. The Canadiens haven’t allowed a power-play goal in their last five games and have killed 18 of 19 penalties over the last eight games.
“It’s something we had to address,” said Gorges. “I think the addition of Jeff (Halpern) has helped out and we’ve tried to simplify our approach. We stress the importance of individual details, being hard on pucks and battling. We’ve done that as of late.”
The win gave the Canadiens a 3-1 edge in the season series against the Bruins and Gorges said this was the Canadiens’ best game against the Bruins.
“It’s a good hockey team and they’re not going to do down lightly,” he said. “But we held our ground and we stayed strong. We played a full 60 minutes tonight and we haven’t done that before.”
The victory was even more impressive because Alexei Emelin left the game with a knee injury midway through the first period and the Canadiens played with five defencemen.
“It’s almost easier,” said Gorges. “You just go out and play. You don’t have time to think about how tired you are. It’s get a quick breather, grab some water and get get back out there. We did a good job of keeping it simple. We didn’t overextend ourselves and take that extra 10 or 15 seconds. We had short shifts and kept ourselves fresh.”
Emelin was injured when he lined up a hard-charging Milan Lucic for a check along the boards. This was a question of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object and the irresistible force winning. Emelin needed help to leave the ice and the Canadiens called up Nathan Beaulieu from the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday to replace him in the lineup.
“We all know he’s a big hitter and he’s really strong on his skates,” Lucic said. “When you’ve got two guys like that going at each other with a lot of speed, sometimes things like that are going to happen.
Carey Price picked up his first win of the season against Boston as he stopped 26 pucks. The one that got away was Daniel Paille’s deflection of Johnny Boychuk’s point shot at 7:10 of the second after the Canadiens had taken a 2-0 lead.
“It hit something, and I lost sight of it, and it found a corner,” said Price. “It was that kind of night. The goals were playoff goals, lucky goals. We got two lucky ones and they got one.”
Alex Galchenyuk, who ended a 13-game drought Thursday against Winnipeg, got the first of the lucky goals at 6:49 of the first period.
“I tried to put it in off the defenceman (Matt Bartkowski) but I missed and he put it in himself,” said Galchenyuk. “It was a lucky goal, but I’ll take it.”
There was an element of luck in Michael Ryder’s game-winner as he deflected P.K. Subban’s shot from the point for a power-play goal at the 57-second mark of the second period. The Bruins have the best penalty-killing record in the league with a success rate of 90.2 per cent, but that brings us back to killing penalties at the right time.
Boston has allowed only 12 power-play goals, but the Canadiens have scored four of those, including Ryder’s winning goal Saturday and Markov’s game-tying goal in Montreal’s 6-5 shootout win on March 27.
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