Canadiens’ Carey Price waits for a shot from Rangers’ Connor Brickley Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. Price made 28 saves in Montreal’s 4-2 win.
Bruce Bennett /
NEW YORK — The Athletic recently polled nearly 200 NHL players and one of the questions asked was: Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final — who do you want starting in goal?Carey Price finished first with 28 per cent of the votes and Friday night at Madison Square Garden he showed why as the Canadiens beat the Rangers 4-2.This wasn’t Game 7 of the Cup final, but it was a huge game for the Canadiens as they managed to cling to the first wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to a strong performance by their goalie, who made 28 saves.The Rangers’ first goal came on a deflection by Vladislav Namestnikov for a 1-0 lead at 4:41 of the first period. Price shut the door while the Canadiens scored three unanswered goals — one by Brendan Gallagher and two by Joel Armia — before allowing a goal by Brendan Lemieux at 17:28 of the third period. Armia completed his hat trick into an empty net with 37 seconds left.Price made at least a half-dozen highlight-reel saves during the game.Canadiens defenceman Victor Mete wasn’t surprised to see Price finish at the top of The Athletic poll question.“Not at all,” Mete said after the Canadiens’ optional morning skate Friday, which Price also took part in. “I’d probably choose him, too.”Mete is only 20, so he grew up watching Price, 31, play. What has impressed Mete most about the goalie now that they’re teammates?“It’s just how calm he is,” the defenceman said. “He’s always so calm. Everything he does is so calm and he’s so confident, too. Even when he gets the puck he’s trying to deke out guys when they’re coming at him. It just shows how much confidence he has and how calm he is when he has the puck.”Price looked very calm stopping the pucks Friday night. That’s when you know he’s really on his game.Price made a lot of big saves in the first period to keep the Canadiens in the game and a few more in the second period before Gallagher tied it up 1-1 at the 7:27 mark and again before Armia scored his first goal at 14:38. Price’s best save came just over three minutes into the second period when he did the splits to move across his crease quickly and stop Namestnikov from close range on a one-timer.Gallagher scored his team-leading 28th goal of the season by driving to the net hard and taking a nice pass from Tomas Tatar. Armia’s first goal was the result of a lucky bounce off the boards on a dump-in by Christian Folin.There was nothing lucky about Armia’s second goal — his ninth of the season — when he beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a quick snapshot to the short side.It was a shot Price almost certainly would have stopped on this night.