MONTREAL (CP) — However poorly Carey Price played early in the season, he is making up for it now.
Price made 27 saves for his third win in as many starts since he missed 10 games with a lower body injury as the Montreal Canadiens downed the slumping Ottawa Senators 2-1 on Wednesday night.
The star goaltender, who began the campaign 3-7-1 with a feeble 3.77 goals-against average, is 3-0-0 and has allowed only two goals on 102 shots since he returned last week.
“He’s been our best player,” said forward Andrew Shaw. “He’s calm, he’s cool, he’s making big-time saves and working hard for us.
“We’re trying to do the same for him. Even when they dump it in he’s like a third defenceman for us, moving the puck and getting it out of our end.”
Jonathan Drouin scored on his first NHL penalty shot and Phillip Danault also had a goal for Montreal (11-12-3), which ended a three-game homestand. They begin a set of back-to-back games with the Red Wings Thursday night in Detroit.
Mark Stone scored his 14th goal for Ottawa (8-9-6), which has lost seven games in a row — the club’s longest drought since it went 0-6-1 from Jan. 21 to Feb. 7, 2012.
The Senators have not won since sweeping a pair of games from Colorado in Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 10-11 and now face six more road games starting Friday night against the New York Islanders. Defenceman Erik Karlsson went without a point for a seventh game in a row.
The Senators had chances, but couldn’t score on three power plays in the second period.
“We played pretty well right from the start of the game,” said forward Zack Smith. “You could tell it was two desperate teams.
“If we had capitalized on any one of the power plays we would have won. But same thing. A couple of missed assignments. A couple of lapses, and that’s the NHL. That will cost you the game.”
Ottawa goalie Mike Condon, pressed into service by Montreal when Price missed most of the 2015-16 season with an injury, started against the Canadiens for the first time and faced 31 shots.
“I moved on pretty quickly after everything happened,” Condon said of facing his old team. “It’s always fun coming into this building.
“It’s always lively and there’s lots of energy so it was great to come back. I just wish we could have got a better outcome.”
The Senators struck shorthanded when Stone intercepted an Alex Galchenyuk pass at the right point, skated in alone and beat Price with a backhander 4:02 into the game.
Drouin tied it 2:56 into the second frame on a penalty shot after he was hooked from behind on a breakaway by Cody Ceci. Drouin beat Condon with a low wrist shot off a post. The last Canadien to score on a penalty shot was Dale Weise against Boston on Nov. 13, 2014.
“It was actually kind of nerve-wracking,” said Drouin, who had not taken a penalty shot since junior hockey. ”I had two moves in my head and decided to shoot at the last second.
“It was a cool moment.”
Danault darted to the net to one-time Andrew Shaw’s feed past Condon at 5:14 for his first goal in 15 games.
Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber missed a fifth straight game with a lower-body injury. Coach Claude Julien said Weber will make the trip to Detroit but is not certain to play.
Forward Dan Carr was called up from AHL Laval after the game.
The Canadiens paid tribute to Mark Recchi in a pre-game ceremony for his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. His name and number were added to the ring of honour at the Bell Centre. Video tributes were read on the scoreboard from former teammates Saku Koivu and Vincent Damphousse. Recchi scored 120 goals in 346 games in five seasons as a Canadien in the 1990s. His picture will go up in the dressing room with the team’s 47 other Hall of Famers.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press