The Right Price (Canadiens-Capitals recap, 12.17.16)

WASHINGTON – While journalists had an idea of what story they had in mind and wanted to put on paper after last night’s embarrassing performance by the Montréal Canadiens, Carey Price made sure his play tonight was going to turn out to be the final say.

Price, less than 24 hours after he was pulled for allowing four goals in a loss to the San Jose Sharks, made 21 saves and the Canadiens’ defense played markedly better in ending the Washington Capitals’ six-game winning streak, winning 2-1 at the Verizon Center on Saturday night. Video showed Price giving a glare at the Canadiens’ bench after being yanked from the game last night against the Sharks, leading to speculation that Price was upset at either his team not giving maximum effort defensively or at head coach Michel Therrien for possibly embarrassing him in deciding to yank him midway through the second period. Price put the issue to bed, and succinctly described what happened yesterday when asked whether if he was upset at anyone specifically.

“No, I was just pissed,” answered Price, now second in the league with 17 wins after tonight. “Not all the time we’re going to see eye-to-eye, but at the end of the day, we just have to move forward and go to the next game and keep fighting hard.”

The next game happened to be against a streaking Capitals’ team playing its best hockey of the season, but Montreal’s defensive concentration was at its highest after its lackluster performance last night. Montréal scored the only goal of the first period at 14:41, with Artturi Lehkonen scoring right off of the faceoff on a wraparound attempt that caught an unsuspecting Braden Holtby off guard in Washington’s goal.

A momentary lapse of discipline led the Capitans to tie up the score late in the second period, as defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Alexei Emelin committed penalties for a 5-on-3 opportunity for Washington. Nicklas Backstrom scored on a one-timer after slick tic-tac-toe passing, started by defenseman John Carlson after he kept a clearing attempt by Andrei Markov in the Canadiens’ zone by going to his knees at the blue line.

It took the Canadiens 2:23 to regain the lead, however, as another Montréal defenseman, Jeff Petry, pinched in and tapped home a centering pass from Max Pacioretty on a 2-on-1. Petry, outside of Price, was the only player on the ice for both Canadiens goals tonight.

“It was important for us to respond,” said Petry, who scored his sixth goal of the season. “Giving up shots and giving up goals early in that game yesterday, it was something that we all knew that we needed to get better. And for a guy [Price] that’s been great for us all year, we had to respond and play well in front of him.”

Montréal’s defense did play well in front of Price, as they didn’t allow more than eight shots in any period and only yielded five shots in the third period to the Capitals. Washington went almost 15 minutes between the end of the second period and midway through the third period without recording a shot on goal. Furthermore, the Canadiens also blocked 21 shots on the night – the same number of shots the Capitals had that reached Price in goal.

Washington came into this weekend as one of the four teams in the Metropolitan Division carrying long winning streaks, but wasn’t the only one of those teams to see their streak snapped. Pittsburgh had a seven-game winning streak broken in a loss last night against the Los Angeles Kings while the Philadelphia Flyers’ 10-game winning streak was ended earlier today in a loss to the Dallas Stars.

[Cover photo (Carey Price) courtesy of Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]

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