Canadiens Francis Bouillon (left) and Max Pacioretty (right) celebrate David Desharnais’s first-period goal Sunday at the Bell Centre.
François Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images
Carey Price had his first back-to-best test of the season and he passed it with flying colours as he led the Canadiens to a sweep on their annual Super Bowl weekend matinees at the Bell Centre.
Price made 30 saves Saturday in what proved to be a 6-1 laugher over the Buffalo Sabres and there was a little more pressure Sunday as he survived a 33-shot barrage to beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1.
Price and backup Peter Budaj split the back-to-back duties last week with Price winning at home and Budaj losing in Ottawa where penalties hurt the Canadiens.
“It was a different scenario,” Price said when asked about playing both games. “We didn’t have a pregame skate yesterday or today and that conserves energy.”
And Price said that while he made more than 30 saves in each game, the tougher task came on Sunday.
“It’s definitely more mentally fatiguing when you have a one-goal lead as opposed to having five,” he said. “But out guys did a good job of bearing down on loose pucks in front of our net and overall we played well.
“I really enjoy afternoon games,” added Price. “I enjoy getting up and going to the rink and playing hockey.”
If Price felt pressure on the ice, he was relaxed after the game.
“I try to maintain an even keel,” he said. “Whether things are going really good or really bad, you have to come to the rink with the same attitude and the same work ethic.”
The Sunday marked the return of left winger Max Pacioretty, who played eight days after he underwent an emergency appendectomy
“He’s obviously a big time player,” Price said. “It’s good to have him back and he brings a lot more than skill. “There’s his physicality , his leadership, the list goes on but I’ll stop there.”
Pacioretty’s return comes at a time when linemates David Desharnais and Erik Cole are beginning to show the form which they displayed last season as the team’s offensive leaders. Desharnais scored his third goal in two days on a pass from Pacioretty while Cole supplied the game-winner midway through the first period.
“We’re just working and sometimes it takes a little time,” Desharnais said. “The chemistry is still there but sometimes we think we’ll be good because we played together but we still have to work.”
Desharnais scored when he went to the net after Pacioretty cut off a clearing pass in the Ottawa zone.
“I know where he’s putting the puck and he knows where I’m going,” explained Desharnais, who said that he received a boost of confidence after scoring twice on Saturday.
“The first one was huge,” he said. “It’s a snowball after that.”
Captain Brian Gionta said he was happy to see Pacioretty in the lineup.
“I think everyone was surprised; he made a big difference out there.”
Ottawa outshot Montreal 27-20 over the final two periods but Gionta said the Canadiens played well against a team with some offensive firepower.
“Our main objective is not to sit on the lead, to keep doing what we did to get the lead and I thought we did a good job of it.”
P.K. Subban continued his integration into the team. He saw more power-play time with Andrei Markov and picked up his second assist. His ice time was limited to 15:28 but that was mostly because a broken skate blade forced him to miss the first half of the third period.
On Saturday, Desharnais and Rene Bourque each scored two goals and Lars Eller had a goal and two assists as the Canadiens routed Buffalo.
They were the first goals of the season for Desharnais and the first points for Eller, who was playing in Pacioretty’s spot.
Eller has bounced around the depth chart and was a healthy scratch for two games but he hopes he made a statement with his performance.
“We have a lot of good players on this team and the coach will have some tough decisions,” said Eller, adding that he wants to make those decisions tougher.
You can hear what Max Pacioretty had to say after the game below:
You can hear what Canadiens goaltender Carey Price said below:
You can hear what Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said below: