In the Habs' Room: Strong special teams play leads to victory over Sens

Carey Price rewards his new coach's faith in him, while the power play scores twice and the penalty-kill is perfect in Montreal's 3-1 win.

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Carey Price said he was grateful that Dominique Ducharme showed confidence in him and gave him the start against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.

“It’s an opportunity that I’m thankful for and I’m happy it turned out the way it did,” Price said after he made 26 saves to lead the Canadiens to a 3-1 victory at the Bell Centre.

Jake Allen has produced the better results for the Canadiens this season as Price has faced a challenge for the No. 1 job for the first time since he played second fiddle to Jaroslav Halak in the 2009-10 season. Halak emerged as the top dog going into the playoffs that season, but when the team had to make a decision at season’s end, they sent Halak packing.

Ducharme, who posted his first win as the Canadiens’ interim coach, said he never lost confidence in Price.

“I said this morning that I wasn’t worried that Carey would be Carey, would be back,” Ducharme said. “I thought he was really good tonight. We need him to be at his best, we need Jake to keep playing as well as he has so far. Goaltender is a key position and there was no doubt in my mind that, along the way, Carey would be back. He’s going to keep working strong and finish the season strong even though he still has a long road to go.”

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With Price on a three-game losing streak, one of the subplots in practice on Monday and Tuesday had Price moving to the second ice surface in Brossard for some individual instruction from goaltending coach Stéphane Waite. We don’t know wether the special attention helped, but shortly after Tuesday’s game, the
Canadiens announced that Waite, who came to the Canadiens from Chicago along with general manager Marc Bergevin, had been fired.

Price received some help in Tuesday night’s win.

The penalty-kill was perfect and the Canadiens played a strong shutdown game in the third period when they limited Ottawa to five shots on goal. One of those was a point-blank shot from Brady Tkachuk, who led the Senators with six shots.

“The penalty-kill was huge for us,” Price said. “Everybody is working in unison and executing well. We did a great job of eliminating plays and closing seams. I thought we did everything we wanted to.”

The power play came to life and produced goals by Brendan Gallagher and Jeff Petry. Alex Burrows has replaced the fired Kirk Muller as the coach for the power play and Ducharme said the play of Jesperi  Kotkaniemi on the wall made a difference.

“I liked his game tonight,” Ducharme said. “He’s headed in the right direction. He’s playing with a good pace. (On the power play) we want five guys to be moving the puck and (Kotkaniemi) on the flank, that’s a key position.

The Canadiens continue to struggle on faceoffs, but some draws are more important than others.

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The Canadiens scored two power-play goals and were no doubt aided by the fact they won all five of their faceoffs when they had the extra man. And the Canadiens’ perfect night on the penalty-kill got a boost when the penalty-killers won four of their six faceoffs.

“We haven’t been good on faceoffs this season, but it’s important when you can win them when you’re on the PP and the PK,” said Kotkaniemi, who was 3-for-6 for the game, but 3-for-3 on the power play.

Next up are home games Thursday and Saturday against Winnipeg. The Jets defeated
Vancouver 5-2 Tuesday to leapfrog over Edmonton into second place in the Canadian division. They are four points ahead of the fourth-place Canadiens, but Montreal has a game in hand.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

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