MONTREAL (CP) — Brendan Gallagher thinks a two-goal cushion probably feels insurmountable for the opposing team when Carey Price is at the top of his game.
Price made 37 saves as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the streaking Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Monday for their second straight win. The Canadiens staked Price to a two-goal advantage in the first period and the Montreal goalie did the rest.
“When you’re able to get a two-goal lead, it’s tough to score on Price,” said Gallagher, who scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season in the first period. “The other team has to score three on him and that’s tough to do on any given night. Momentum is such a big part of the game. So when you have a goalie that can, even when he’s under pressure, look like he’s so composed and so calm in the net, it’s tough for the other team to really build momentum because they don’t feel like they’re ever challenging him.”
In his second game back from injury, Price followed up a 3-0 shutout performance against the Buffalo Sabres with some jaw-dropping stops to deny the Blue Jackets, who lost for the first time since Nov. 10.
A sprawled-out Price made two quick pad saves on captain Nick Foligno five minutes into the game, the first coming when Price had his back to the puck. Midway through the second period, the Canadiens goalie denied Boone Jenner twice in quick succession from the crease.
“He was unbelievable,” said Andrew Shaw, who sealed the encounter with an empty-net goal at 18:36 of the third. “He battled for us, competed for us and made some big saves. It’s great to have him back.
“He had a toe save (on Jenner), then he pulled up the heel and made another one. That was my favourite one of the night.”
Montreal (10-12-3) scored on its first two shots on Sergei Bobrovsky, the league leader in save percentage and goals-against average.
Gallagher, after capitalizing on a giveaway by Cam Atkinson, got the first at 3:11 with a sharp-angle shot that beat Bobrovsky five-hole for his 200th career point.
Jonathan Drouin doubled Montreal’s lead with a power-play goal at 8:10 of the first. Using Shaw as a screen, Drouin roofed the puck on Bobrovsky with a slapshot from the face-off dot for his first goal since Nov. 5, ending an eight-game goalless drought.
Bobrovsky, who made 25 saves, had allowed just six goals on Columbus’s six-game winning streak coming into Monday’s contest.
“It’s nice to get out to a lead, obviously,” said Price, who earned his fifth win of the season. “We just have to keep pressing and keep building on that. Guys are playing hard. Some guys are playing some big minutes. We’re doing a good job of boxing guys out and being assertive.”
Columbus (15-8-1) outshot Montreal 18-7 in the second period and rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois finally found the back of the net for the visitors at 16:08. Dubois crashed the net and poked a loose puck past Price. Coach Claude Julien challenged the play for goaltender interference but the goal stood.
“They got two goals in the first and that really got us,” said Dubois. “We fought back but it was too little too late. The first period really hurt us. Our compete level wasn’t high enough. Bob (Bobrovsky) kept us in the game but we couldn’t get more goals.”
It is only the second regulation-time loss for the Blue Jackets against an Atlantic-Division opponent this season (7-2-1).
Notes: Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber missed his fourth consecutive game with a lower-body injury. … Columbus beat Montreal 2-1 in overtime earlier this month (Nov. 14).
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press