VANCOUVER â€” Carey Price and the Canadiens cooled down what little momentum Vancouver built up recently with back-to-back wins.
Price made 27 saves and Paul Byron scored in overtime as Montreal defeated the Canucks 2-1 on Tuesday night at Rogers Arena.
The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for the Canucks after picking up road wins in southern California. Vancouver (28-31-7) desperately needed the points to keep its fading playoff hopes alive. They are now seven points back of St. Louis for the second wild card spot after the Blues beat the Wild 2-1 on Tuesday.
“It’s disappointing and frustrating. It would have been huge for us in the standings,” said Michael Chaput, who scored Vancouver’s lone goal in the game. “Now we have to think about Thursday’s game and get back to it.”
For Price and the red-hot Canadiens it’s a polar opposite scenario. The Atlantic Division-leading Habs (38-21-8) have won six straight and are thriving under new head coach Claude Julien with a 7-2 record.
As for Price, he’s been on fire recently, with a shutout and only five goals allowed in his last five games â€” all wins.
“It’s not just me, it’s our defensive play in general,” said Price, deflecting the credit. “Ever since the bye we have been playing very well.”
Torrey Mitchell scored his first goal for the Canadiens in 39 games. It came in the first period on a redirect off Andrei Markov’s wrist shot from the blue-line. The noticeably vocal contingent of Habs fans present roared in approval.
“Mitchy is a character guy,” said Price. “He brings speed and tenacity to our game. He’s a good presence in our locker-room, and he’s a great teammate. I’m happy for him.”
Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller had a busy night with 36 saves and couldn’t do much against Byron’s OT winner. After Alex Galchenyuk shot the puck, it took a strange bounce that even caught Byron off guard.
“It hit me on the inside of the pants, kind of right off the cup there, so it caught me by surprise,” said Byron.
“It’s almost kind of comical,” added Miller. “It was a really tough bounce. It’s just one of those ones … it feels like you can’t do anything about it. It’s right there, but you can’t get it. It’s a tough feeling.”
Nikolay Goldobin, making his Vancouver home debut after being traded a week ago from San Jose, had two quality chances against a sprawling Price, but couldn’t tie it in the first period.
The Canucks sustained pressure on Price in the second, but the Montreal netminder again made the necessary saves, including a partial breakaway shot from Brendan Gaunce mid-period.
“I could have helped the team win today,” said Gaunce. “I could have scored on that 2-on-1 and that would have changed the game. For me, I’m probably my hardest critic. It’s just something I want to be able to do.”
Price made a spectacular glove save on a streaking Markus Granlund eight minutes into the third, prompting chants of “Carey, Carey” to erupt in the upper deck.
“It’s always cool to come home to B.C.,” said Price, who was born in Vancouver before moving to Anahim Lake, B.C. “I love it here.”
The Canucks only goal came at 7:11 of the third when Edler’s wrist shot from near the blue line was redirected by Chaput over Price’s blocker.
Notes: D Brandon Davidson made his Canadiens debut since being acquired in a trade with Edmonton. … Canadiens centre Brian Flynn left the game in the second period and did not return. …. Montreal was without Alex Radulov (lower body) and Tomas Plekanec (upper body). … The Canucks were without Loui Eriksson (knee).
Jason Keller, The Canadian Press