It was an emotional Friday night at the Bell Centre well beyond the scoreboard, which read 3-0 for the New York Islanders over the Montreal Canadiens, if you were wondering.
Earlier in the day, Hall of Famer and Montreal native Mike Bossy passed away at the age of 65. Coincidentally, or perhaps prophetically enough, his Islanders were in town to face the Montreal Canadiens. Starting in goal for the Habs for the first time this season was Carey Price. Price last suited up in the Stanley Cup finals, and his road back involved setbacks from offseason knee surgery and time away in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.
The Bell Centre crowd showed their appreciation to both men. First, here’s announcer Michel Lacroix on Bossy:
And here’s the crowd reacting to Price’s name being called in the starting lineup.
Price’s family didn’t want to be in a private box for this one: they were front row cheering on No. 31.
There was still a game to be played, and it could’ve been a lopsided one if not for a 44-save shutout for Isles netminder Ilya Sorokin. Even snake-bitten Joel Armia and Mike Hoffman were working their tails off to give their goaltender a lead, but Sorokin kept the door shut.
Price stopped eight in the first period, and he looked comfortable between the pipes despite the long layoff. He moved laterally and positioned himself with seemingly no limitations. He came out to challenge shooters and demonstrated his puck-handling skills were as competent as ever. Price made 17 saves in total and, perhaps more importantly, looked like he could do it all again the next night.
It was scoreless after the first and second, as Sorokin frustrated the Habs with 30 saves. Even in the twilight of his career, Montrealers appear unwilling to cut Zdeno Chara any slack.
The Habs defence was notably on its best behaviour last night (Liveblog commenter Carin Latzel asked aloud, “I wonder if Monty is thinking ‘Why couldn’t they play like this in front of me?’ “), with the major exception being Corey Schueneman’s ill-timed giveaway in the offensive zone with his teammates engaged down low. The Islanders took the puck up the ice for a three-on-zero, with Zach Parise the finisher to finally break the ice. Nothing Price could do with three opponents barrelling in.
It took less than two minutes for the Islanders to do it again. Blueliner Noah Dobson teed up a hard wrister that went far side post and in to give Long Island a 2-0 lead. With the way Sorokin was playing, a two-goal lead felt like a mountain. Paul Byron slammed his stick on the boards in frustration.
Interim coach Martin St. Louis pulled Price for an extra attacker with less than three minutes remaining, but Brock Nelson added to his impressive goal total against the Habs with the 3-0 empty-netter. Nelson ends the season with six goals against Montreal.
The Bell Centre took a collective deep breath in the third when Casey Cizikas clipped Price coming just outside the crease, before screaming bloody murder for a penalty call. None came, but Price stood up without issue. Matt Martin and Joel Edmundson settled the game-long tension by dropping the gloves in the game’s final minute.
For the first time since St. Louis took over as coach, the Canadiens are in the midst of a four-game losing streak. The Habs more than doubled the Islanders in shots and happened to run into a hot goalie. Without speculating too much into the future, the Habs may be hoping Price can steal a few more for his team before it’s all said and done.
The Liveblog commenters really wanted the Habs to win one for Carey, and felt the team played well enough to get the W. It was also nice to see some reminiscing about Bossy, including wondering what might’ve been had the Habs drafted him. We’ll never know …
3. “Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the guy even though you’d like to pop him one ….” -Tom Xenn
2. “I’ll take a goal from anyone at this point. DVO? Byron? Petry? Somebody? Anybody?” -Carin Latzel
1. “I don’t know what the team doctors would think about back to back, but, Carey hasn’t been busy.” -Ryan Katz
New York Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin steals the show from Carey Price
Habs fans welcome the return of Carey Price
Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis has warm memories of Mike Bossy