Price lock: Canadiens blank Sabres in goalie’s return
MONTREAL — Carey Price had not even stepped out onto the ice yet before his name was being chanted by the Bell Centre crowd. The All-Star goaltender was back between the pipes for the Montreal Canadiens after being sidelined for most of the month of November with a lower body injury.
Price made 36 saves en route to his 40th career shutout — and first of the season — in his first start since Nov. 2, leading the Canadiens to a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
Jeff Petry, Alex Galchenyuk and Paul Byron all scored for Montreal (9-12-3).
The Sabres (6-14-4), who snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, have now lost eight of their last 10 games.
“He’s the best goalie in the world,” Sabres forward Sam Reinhart said about Price after the game. “I think there’s always ways we can get to him. We can make things more difficult on him.”
The first period was a lively one, with over 70 families of kids with cancer in attendance for Montreal’s Hockey Fights Cancer night. The Canadiens delivered in the first, outshooting Buffalo 14-10.
Montreal defenseman Victor Mete, who returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, blocked a shot in the opening minutes of the first period to keep it a scoreless affair early on.
During a scoring attempt by the Sabres, Price was bumped by Rasmus Ristolainen, knocking him onto his backside and into the net. The netminder popper right back up, as the Bell Centre crowd audibly breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“A lot of preparation went into tonight,” Price said after the win. “You know, injuries aren’t a vacation. It took a lot to get ready for tonight, and now I’ve got to move to the next one.”
The Canadiens earned the game’s first power-play opportunity after Buffalo right winger Jason Pominville was called for a hook on Charles Hudon. Petry only needed a few seconds to fire a point shot on goalie Robin Lehner and make it 1-0. Jonathan Drouin and Galchenyuk picked up the assists on the goal.
“The last two games, he’s been outstanding,” Canadiens head coach Claude Julien said about Petry’s play of late. “He’s skating with a lot of confidence, he’s getting on those pucks, he’s winning those battles and races.
“It’s nice to see a guy like that step up, like he’s doing right now, when you’re missing when of your top D’s. He’s just done a great job, and again, we just hope he continues playing that way, because that’s the kind of player we need on the back end.”
Byron missed his last two shifts of the first period after sustaining what appeared to be a minor hand injury late in the first period. He was back on the bench to start the second.
With 6:02 to play in the second period, Byron and Galchenyuk created a 2-on-1 rush, with Galchenyuk snapping Byron’s rebound past Lehner to give the Canadiens a two-goal lead. Drouin picked up his second assist on the goal.
With Andrew Shaw in the penalty box serving a slashing minor, Byron broke free to score his sixth of the season, an unassisted short-handed goal, making it 3-0.
That score would hold up despite the fact that the Sabres played the final three minutes and change with the extra attacker after head coach Phil Housley pulled Lehner. It looked like Buffalo was going to ruin the Price party when they sneaked one by the goal line with 32.5 seconds remaining in the game. After video review, it was determined that Reinhart had interfered with the Canadiens netminder, thus disallowing the goal.
“I saw the replay on the Jumbotron and I don’t know if I need to go to the eye doctor, but it looked to me like Sam (Reinhart) was outside the crease,” Sabres forward Evander Kane told reporters after the loss. “I don’t know. I don’t have anything good to say about that decision. Like I said, maybe I’ll go to the eye doctor and get my eyes checked out.”
NOTES: Canadiens D Shea Weber missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Montreal LW Max Pacioretty, who had two shots on goal on Saturday night, has at least one shot in each game this season. ... Canadiens D Jeff Petry scored his first power-play goal since Dec. 5, 2016 (which came against the Colorado Avalanche). ... Buffalo C Jack Eichel led his team with eight shots on goal on Saturday night. ... Sabres G Robin Lehner made his second start in as many nights. ... Buffalo hasn’t won on the road since they beat the Coyotes 5-4 on Nov. 2.