Backed by some spectacular saves from goaltender Carey Price, it took 65 minutes and five rounds of a shootout for Montreal to edge the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Price made three saves in the final minute of overtime, with his second a tremendous one on J.T. Miller. He, also stopped Miller in the fifth round of the shootout before winger Paul Byron netted the winner, and the Canadiens snapped the Blueshirts’ five-game home winning streak, 3-2.
With one second left in overtime, Price dove headlong to his left to stone Miller trying to finish a two-in-one with Kevin Hayes. Miller just bent at the waist, his stick held low.
At the end of the game, even Henrik Lundqvist commended Price, who made 28 saves.
“I just said [to him] it was a nice save,” Lundqvist recalled. “You have to appreciate goaltending when it’s that good . . . I’m pretty disappointed right now, but I appreciate the effort here from everyone.”
The Rangers, who will visit Toronto on Thursday, moved to 38-19-2 (78 points), and tightened their grip on a wild-card spot with 22 games to play in the regular season.
“I think it was a pretty good effort,” Dan Girardi said. “Obviously the huge save by Price saved the game for them. We liked the way we played, we would have liked to get two, but we’re happy to get the point.”
So the Canadiens (32-20-8, 72 points), trying to hold onto first place in the Atlantic Division, ended a three-game losing streak and racked up their first victory under coach Claude Julien, who was hired a week ago after being fired by the Bruins.
“Obviously, he [Price] showed in overtime that he’s never out of it,” said Rick Nash, who tied the score game at 2, splitting the defense on a breakaway and beating Price high on the glove side at 9:26 of the second period. The goal gave Nash three in the last four games against Montreal.
Nash almost tied it at 3:21 of the second period. He sped up ice from the red line and tried to deke Price on a breakaway. But a patient Price slid right and got his right pad on Nash’s forehander.
“You always want to get two points, but it was good hockey,” said Derek Stepan, who hit the crossbar on his shootout attempt. “Overtime was entertaining, back and forth action. You’re going to see a lot more of those games down the stretch.”
Here’s how the duel in the shootout played out: After Mats Zuccarello scored in the first round of the shootout, Henrik Lundqvist denied Brian Flynn. Price stopped Mika Zibanejad, but Alexander Radulov’s backhander eluded Lundqvist. Stepan rang the crossbar and Lundqvist snagged Max Pacioretty’s wrister. Price stuffed Jimmy Vesey’s bid, and Lundqvist turned away Alex Galchenyuk to end the fourth round.
Andrew Shaw on a wraparound, and Oscar Lindberg on a redirection in front, had the score knotted after the first period. The second didn’t start well for the Blueshirts. Nick Holden was whistled for interference at 1:34. Eight seconds later, Shea Weber wound up from the left point and blasted the puck through Lundqvist.
“There are a couple guys in the league when they shoot, it’s like you have to make two saves,” Lundqvist said. ‘It’s like a drill and keeps going through your arm.”
In the end it was Price, with arms and glove and pads and stick, who made the difference.