MONTREAL — After watching centre Lars Eller stretchered off the Bell Centre ice after a horrific open ice hit in the series opener, the Montreal Canadiens and goaltender Carey Price knew they had to answer with a big Game 2.
Price came through with a 29-save effort as the Canadiens pulled out a hard-hitting but mostly cleanly played 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
The win left their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final tied at 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Sunday in Ottawa.
“It’s the playoffs — you can’t dwell on the last game,” said Price, who took heat for two goals that beat him between the pads in a 4-2 loss to Ottawa in the series opener only 24 hours earlier. “You’ve got to get refocused and get ready for the next one.”
Fourth-line grinder Ryan White, rookie Brendan Gallagher and veteran sniper Michael Ryder scored in the middle period and the Canadiens held on to beat the flat-looking Senators, who were let down by a power play that went 0-for-4.
Milan Michalek scored for Ottawa.
Missing not only Eller, but captain Brian Gionta and big winger Max Pacioretty who emerged from Game 1 with upper-body injuries, the Canadiens stuck to basics. They outshot Ottawa 34-30 and outhit them 37-26.
There was anticipation of rough play after Eric Gryba’s hit that left Eller bleeding profusely on the ice and saw him spend a night in hospital with a concussion, smashed up nose and some missing teeth.
Passions were further inflamed Friday morning as Montreal coach Michel Therrien blasted his Ottawa counterpart Paul MacLean for what he felt were disrespectful comments. MacLean had suggested Eller should have kept his head up and that rearguard Raphael Diaz had left him open to a hit with a “suicide” pass.
But the teams stuck to hockey in an uneventful game.
“When I read his comments this morning, I was pretty upset,” said Therrien.
MacLean just stared off into space without answering when asked about the two-game suspension Gryba got from the NHL.
But he was clear on what caused his team to lose the game.
“They played harder than we did for most of the game,” MacLean said. “We turned over pucks that ended up in our net.
“We need a lot of rest and on Sunday, we need to come out and play. We got a split here and now we have home ice advantage. Now we have to respond to that.”
The spotlight was on Price, who was porous down the stretch in the regular season and was thoroughly outplayed in Game 1 by Craig Anderson. He took more criticism for failing to speak to the media after the game.
But he was solid only 24 hours later, and got help from teammates who blocked 34 shots, including five each by Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban
“The guys were letting me see the puck,” said Price. “They did an excellent job of getting to the trash I left out. We’re going to need the same type of effort in Game 3.”
Subban was not surprised.
“When he wants to shut the door, he shuts it and he locks it,” the flashy defenceman said.
The win cost Price the bottom of his two front teeth thanks to a collision in the crease with teammate Jarred Tinordi. He calmly skated to the team bench to hand over the broken choppers.
Curiously, Anderson had lost a tooth while winning Game 1 from being hit in the mask by a Rene Bourque shot.
Montreal broke the ice with two quick goals early in the second frame.
White skated hard into the Ottawa zone and was there to bat Erik Karlsson’s backhand pass out of the air and between Anderson’s pads at 3:20.
Only 53 seconds later, Alex Galchenyuk took the rebound of a Francis Bouillon shot and slipped it across to Gallagher for the rookie’s second goal of the series.
Ottawa had an extra man on for a delayed penalty call when Michalek tipped in a Chris Phillips shot at 8:16.
A sliding pad save by Price during an Ottawa power play proved to be big, as Montreal killed it off and then scored as Bourque slid the puck through a scramble to Ryder for a shot into an open side at 18:57.
The Canadiens backed Therrien’s rebuttal to MacLean’s comments.
“We saw our teammate, our friend, get hurt,” said Gallagher. “You have to understand how emotional that is for us.
“When we hear stuff like that we’re pretty sensitive about it. We didn’t like it, but that’s all I’ll say about it.”