On February 5, Carey Price won his 308th regular season game as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. This is Part 3 of a 10-part series looking back at Price’s career through the lens of various milestone victories he’s recorded. Each iteration will be posted the day after one of the final 10 victories it takes him to pass Jacques Plante as the goalie with the most wins in Canadiens history.
Check out Part 2 here.
Win #100: October 26, 2011
Montreal Canadiens 5, Philadelphia Flyers 1
Carey Price was, for many years, a goalie mired in controversy. For all the great things he was able to achieve in his first few seasons, failure and the requisite chorus of boos never seemed far off. He was a roller coaster in the net; every storybook success just a few pages away from a dispiriting setback.
A sterling 24-win rookie season in 2007-08 was followed up by a tough second-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; a strong start to his sophomore season was derailed by an ankle injury and lacklustre numbers down the stretch; his third season saw him relinquish the crease entirely to Jaroslav Halak in a two-goalie game of tug-of-war.
After GM Pierre Gauthier traded Halak to the St. Louis Blues, Price took the reins and put together an incredibly strong performance in his fourth season, his first complete one as an NHL starter, tying Roberto Luongo for the league lead in wins with 38.
Then the Habs lost in OT in Game 7 of the first round against the Boston Bruins, and started the next season 1-5-2, their worst start in 70 years, leading to the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn in the hours leading up to their home game on the night of Wednesday, October 26th, 2011.
As he’d been many times already in his career, and as he’d continue to be for many years to come, Price was faced with a tough situation on the big stage. The Habs faithful were growing frustrated with the team’s disappointing start, and Price, who’d been sitting on 99 career regular season wins for the past two and a half weeks, was sporting numbers unbecoming of a bonafide number-one goalie.
His 3.13 GAA and .878 save percentage going into that game both ranked 24th of the top 30 goalies in terms of ice time; in that group, only the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Steve Mason (0-7-0) had fewer wins. (Perhaps the one saving grace Price had was that Halak was also struggling in St. Louis to start the season, going 1-4-0 with a 3.47 GAA and .835 save percentage.)
Considering the circumstances, though, a home loss here would have been ugly. It would have dropped the Canadiens to an abysmal 1-6-2 through their first nine games. Losing to the Flyers — who’d knocked the Canadiens out of the playoffs in two of the previous four seasons — would only compound the situation. With one man behind the bench already gone, a tough game could start to fuel the engines of the Montreal media machine — how long would it be until it was head coach Jacques Martin’s head on the chopping block?
Perhaps sensing something mystical in the air, Price opted for an equipment change, ditching the white-and-pink pads he’d been wearing to commemorate Breast Cancer Month, and returning to a more traditional white-and-red scheme. Though he’s been known to be somewhat superstitious at times — a long-standing goalie tradition if ever there was one — apparently the call was not his alone.
”I don’t want to say who, but it came from high up,” Price admitted when asked about the decision to switch his pads. “It was an executive decision from the team.”
The gamble paid off. After a first period which saw the teams trade goals, the Canadiens exploded in the game’s second half, outscoring the Flyers 4-0 over the final 30 minutes, including a pair from Max Pacioretty. Rather than a chorus of boos, Price rang in triple digits to the tune of a standing ovation, as he stopped 21 of 22 overall, barring the door completely after allowing the game’s first goal to Jaromir Jagr.
On finally reaching the century mark, Price was his typical self, deflecting praise and chalking his success up to being able to backstop a series of strong teams. “Hopefully the next 100 won’t take as long,” he quipped after the game. It’s a funny quote, considering that, at 24 years, 71 days old, Price was the seventh-youngest goalie ever to hit 100 career wins. But he was right. His next 100 wins wouldn’t take as long to rattle off as his first.
In typical roller coaster fashion, the victory over the Flyers kicked off a hot streak that saw Price go 7-2-1 over his next 10 games, including a set of back-to-back shutouts over the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers the following month. He was named NHL Player of the Week for the final week of October, and passed Canadiens legend Georges Vezina with his 104th career victory not long afterward.
Carey Price Win Tracker:
Current Wins: 308
Earliest Price could tie Plante: February 19th vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Earliest Price could pass Plante: February 21st vs. Philadelphia Flyers