These days, there is no music greater to the ears of Habs fans than the words "Carey Price starting." With those words, and he coming off two consecutive shutouts with his current exploits, you'd have to like the team's chances against almost anyone. Of course, the goaltender at the other end of the ice for the Predators would be a fellow Vezina trophy contender in the Pekka Rinne. Definitely a game to watch for any hockey fan that enjoys great goaltending.
Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca
If it wasn't clear pre-game, it was after a few shots had been fired at either end of the ice, that goals were not to come easy in this contest. With the caliber of goaltending on either side, it was going to take a perfect chance, luck, or a combination of both to find the back of the net. As luck would have it, that first bit of fortune would come less than half way through the first.
Just over 166 minutes into Price's shutout streak, he finally allowed someone to score on him. As Andrei Markov was about to be called for hooking on Mattias Ekholm, the latter managed to swat a rolling puck from his knees and over the shoulder of Carey Price to open the scoring. Naturally, it took some quick hands and the fortune of a deceitful rolling puck to score the first goal of the game.
Even after the streak was ended, Price just went right back about his excellent play. At one point early in the second, he even manage to bail himself out on his own giveaway by making a backward facing toe save. Carey Price is ridiculous. The Nashville fans did their part to recognize their goaltender on the night, and to his credit he was also great, but their MVP chant is not likely to be enough to sway the general population from Carey Price at this point.
Despite being slightly outplayed in the early goings of the second, a great hold at the line by Greg Pateryn led to a bit of a bad rebound from Rinne, which fell right into the high slot. Brendan Gallagher, as he often does, pounced on the loose puck and tied the game up at one. Rinne had little chance, as he had slid out of his crease to make the initial save and bumped in to one of his own defenders.
Ten minutes later, P.A. Parenteau won a puck battle in the corner and fed a beautiful pass to a wide open David Desharnais in front. The latter made no mistake, and put it home with authority to take a 2-1 lead. Through 40, all three goals scored involved fortuitous bounces or unstoppable front door shots, a testament to the goaltenders involved.
While they didn't sit on their one goal lead as much as they sometimes tend to do, Price's luck in this game just wasn't there. A Ryan Ellis bouncing point shot somehow found its way through a crowd, and tied the game midway the second. Credit the Predators for recognizing that against Price right now, sometimes you have to put it on net and hope for some action along the way.
Each team would get their chances to end it in regulation, including a powerplay opportunity apiece, but again, all roads led to two goaltenders with no intention of making things easy. As the horn sounded to end the third, the Canadiens became the league's first team to 100 points, with one more up for grabs in the extra frame.
In overtime, it didn't take long for the Predators to get a chance to end it, as P.K. Subban would go to the box for tripping just over one minute into the frame. Four on three powerplays are one of the toughest situations to deal with, and this one was no exception, as Mike Ribeiro found a wide open Filip Forsberg on the back door to end the game and take the extra point. Pekka Rinne may have won this battle, but I believe most would still argue that Price is winning the trophy war at this point.
A few observations
-Alex Galchenyuk had a fantastic night, but like Carey Price he was rather unlucky. At one point in the first he retrieved his own dump in, set up shop against the Preds defenders, and generated a scoring chance. He led the team, controlling 78% of even strength shot attempts while he was on the ice, and had a great chance to take back the lead late in the third, but just couldn't get it over Rinne's pad.
-Pateryn may draw some ire for his late third period hooking penalty, but he had an excellent game and has been a pleasant surprise since drawing into the lineup. He trailed only Nathan Beaulieu among Habs defensemen with 67% even strength Corsi for, and his pinch in the second led directly to the Gallagher goal. He's definitely been doing his part to keep himself in Montreal for the foreseeable future.
5v5 score-and-venue-adjusted #fancystats for game 21096 vs. NSH: Fenwick/USAT: 34-32 (51.5%), Corsi/SAT: 52-45 (53.6%)— Mathieu Roy (@Le_Matheux) March 25, 2015
-Despite the result, it was a solid game overall, and if not for an extremely lucky point shot, it likely ends as a regulation win. They went up against one of the very few goaltenders who is mentioned in the same breath as Carey Price this year, but the bounces simply went the other way.