It wasn't a pretty win. The Canadiens secured two points, but they took an extremely bumpy road to get there. As per usual, Carey Price acted as Montreal's shock absorber, a role he's played ad nauseam this season. Before we get to what happened, it's important to remember that Carolina resides in the basement of the NHL's standings for a reason; they can't generate offense.
If there was one team during the season that Carey Price should be able to circle on his calendar as a relatively easy night, it might be Carolina. That definitely wasn't the case last night, as Price was forced to make 28 saves, to earn his 20th win of the season.
Jiri Sekac got the Habs off to a good start, thanks to a fantastic individual effort, which evoked visions of Gustav Nyqvist. The backhand effort gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead, although for some reason it didn't translate into an increase of ice time for the skilled winger, who ended up with slightly more ice time than Dale Weise.
The rest of the period was the Carey Price show, as he repeatedly robbed the Hurricanes on great scoring chances. Riley Nash, in particular, was robbed at least four times by the Habs' MVP in the first frame alone. The Hurricanes were gifted at least three odd-man rushes during the period, but they failed to beat Price on any of their golden opportunities.
Lars Eller doubled up the Canadiens' lead late in the second period, due to a nice pinch by Sergei Gonchar, who's proving to Habs fans that he still has some gas left in the tank. The Gonchar pinch gave Dale Weise plenty of time to find a wide open Lars Eller, who put home his eight goal of the year. The goal was Montreal's 21,000th in franchise history.
The Canes carried the play for the rest of the game, however their efforts only earned them one goal. It came early in the second period, from the stick of Eric Staal. Staal capitalized on a rare rebound from Price, taking advantage of some interference on the play to reach the puck first.
A late empty-net goal by Max Pacioretty, his 10th third period goal of the year, would seal the deal for the Habs.
Montreal hung on, but their strategy of sitting back and allowing Price to save the day continues to raise the collective blood pressure of Habs fans worldwide. If the Habs were a band, they'd be called 'Carey Price and some other guys too."
Price, who had a somewhat slow start to the year, is now second in terms of save percentage (.928) among all NHL goalies that have played 20+ games, trailing only Pekka Rinne (.935). This was was the seventh-straight game that Montreal allowed two or fewer goals, and anyone who's watched the games can tell you it's not due to staunch defense.
Montreal put up 19 shots against the Canes, which was the eighth time this season they've managed twenty shots or less. It was the 14th time they've put up 25 shots or less. You get the idea. Carey Price is Montreal's MVP, there's no doubt about it. Can he continue his ridiculous level of play throughout the year? The Canadiens had better hope so, because without him they'd be looking at a very good draft pick come summer.
This year's motto is definitely 'Carey Price or bust'.