Carey Price made 33 saves in his return from a lower-body injury as the Montreal Canadiens returned home and started 2019 with a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
Jordie Benn and Jonathan Drouin scored for the Canadiens in their first home game after their annual Holiday road trip where they went 4-2-0.
The game started with a scary incident for the Canadiens. Brendan Gallagher took a shot off the hand and went right to the room, and looked like a potential bad injury but thankfully he returned before the end of the first period.
Jordie Benn had an up and down first period. From a turnover that led to an Elias Pettersson chance, to fighting back on the back check and then scoring the first goal of the game with a great snap shot that was perfectly placed. It was Benn’s third goal of the season and it all started with a great forecheck from Joel Armia and a pass from Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Benn’s goal was sandwiched by the teams trading power plays and had some opportunities but nothing too dangerous on either side despite zone time.
The Canucks’ best chance in the opening period was when Pettersson broke in after a Benn turnover, and beat Carey Price with a beautiful move only to fire the puck wide of the net. Benn, to his credit, made life difficult for Pettersson as he broke down on Price.
Tomas Tatar had a great chance to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but his shot from the slot went wide.
Price stood tall almost five minutes into the period when Jay Beagle fired a one-timer from a prime shooting area, but Price made the save look easy and held the rebound close.
A few minutes later, Kotkaniemi and Pettersson got tangled up, and Pettersson took the worst of the collision, getting his lower body twisted up. He stayed down, but did skate off on his own, but went right to the dressing room and did not return to the game. No penalty was called on the play.
The second period stayed eventful as in the next few moments, Artturi Lehkonen was sprung on a partial breakaway but fired his shot wide.
The Canadiens finally did double their lead when Max Domi found a streaking Jonathan Drouin and beat Jacob Markstrom, making no mistake to make it 2-0 at 8:24 of the second period.
Price was up to his tricks again after a turnover in the defensive zone turned into a great scoring chance for the Canucks. Armia turned the puck over to Bo Horvat in the slot, but Price made the glove save. The Canucks outshot the Canadiens 17-9 in the second period, but the Canadiens goaltender kept Vancouver at bay.
In the third period, teams took back-and-forth penalties within the opening 10 minutes, which seemed to suit the Canadiens fine as they tried to hold on to the lead.
It was at even strength where the Canadiens had their best chance of the period, and maybe even the game, when Domi, Drouin, and Paul Byron combined to come up with several great scoring chances but could not beat Markstrom and the Canucks defence.
Shortly after, Michael Chaput took a penalty and on the ensuing power play Brock Boeser would hit the post behind Price.
Vancouver pulled Markstrom with over two minutes remaining to try and close the gap but neither team really came close to scoring.
- Joel Armia hadn’t played since November 6, but he entered the lineup without missing a beat. He was the forgotten man while hurt as the Canadiens had four lines playing well, but he proved tonight that he has a spot in this lineup.
- There haven’t been many games that looked that easy for Price in a while. It really was vintage Price, who celebrated the birth of his second daughter and All-Star game nomination in style. Even the good chances Vancouver had looked like easy saves for Price, which is a sign he’s on his game.
- The Canadiens did a great job at limiting high danger chances from the Canucks. They only allowed five high danger chances at 5-on-5 in the game, and most shots the Canucks had were from the outside, making life easy for their goaltender.
- Jonathan Drouin has been inconsistent this year, but on his first shift of the game, when he made a play in the offensive zone I said to myself that we were going to see the good Drouin tonight. Sure enough, that’s what happened. His 13th goal equals his total from a year ago in 36 fewer games.