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TORONTO — It was a save for the ages.
It also might have saved Nick Suzuki’s life during the Canadiens’ 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena.
With eight minutes left in the second period and Philadelphia leading 1-0, Scott Laughton was set up in the slot with Carey Price caught sliding out of his crease and the Flyers forward wound up for a blast. Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki was hustling on the backcheck and found himself alone in the crease trying to play goalie. With the puck headed toward Suzuki’s head, Price lunged back with his stick and somehow deflected the puck over the net.
“I wasn’t quite sure what it hit, but it was coming at me,” Suzuki said after the game. “I just kind of tucked my head and I was hoping it was going to hit me and block the shot. But Carey did an unbelievable job there saving that, saved my head, for sure.”
During a video conference Thursday afternoon, Laughton said he watched the play afterwards on video.
“Probably see what you could have done different,” the Flyers forward said. “He’s a world-class goalie and one of the best for a reason. He sticks his stick out there. I honestly tried to shoot it as hard as I could. A little bit of an open net and tried to put in as hard as I could. Didn’t really see what happened at first. I had to check the iPad. Really, really good save by a good goalie. Hopefully can get one by him next game.”
Was Laughton afraid he might hit Suzuki in the face or the head with the shot?
“To be honest, I didn’t see him right away,” Laughton said. “I was mid slapshot when I saw him in the net. You definitely don’t want to injure a guy when he’s that close in and you’re that close in. At the same time, you’ve got to try and score. I tried to go top left there and he was kind of more in the middle of the net. I don’t know if it would have gone in if Price didn’t get his stick on. You definitely don’t want to try and take a slapshot at a guy’s head when he’s in the crease like that. I tried to go to the left side of the net and Price made a really good save.”
Here’s how Price described the save after the game: “Obviously, just desperate there and Nick made himself big and I think he got a piece of it as well.”
Game 2 is slated for Friday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena (3 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).
No goals for Gallagher and Tatar
The Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar both scored 22 goals during the regular season to tie for the team lead. Five games into this postseason, they are both still looking for their first goal.
Gallagher leads the Canadiens with 24 shots on goal during the postseason (including a team-high seven in Game 1 against the Flyers), but Tatar has only five shots in five games and had none Wednesday night. After playing the last two seasons with Phillip Danault as their centre, Gallagher and Tatar are now playing with Suzuki in the middle.
This isn’t the first time Gallagher and Tatar have struggled to score in the playoffs.
In 45 career playoff games, Gallagher has 10 goals and he scored only one in six games three years ago when the Canadiens were eliminated by the New York Rangers in the first round.
In 30 career playoff games, Tatar has only four goals. In eight playoff games with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018, Tatar scored only one goal.
Making adjustments for Habs
The Canadiens got off to a sluggish start Wednesday night after having not played since last Friday, when they eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round. The Flyers outshot the Canadiens 11-5 in the first period and were leading 1-0 on a power-play goal by Jakub Voracek.
“I thought we had a little bit of a rusty start,” Canadiens captain Shea Weber said after the game. “I thought we were slow out of the gates, maybe due to not playing for a bunch of days there. But I thought as the game went on we got better. I mean, we showed that we can play with them, we believe that we can play with them. You know it’s a seven-game series. It was a tight game tonight and it should be a good series going forward.”
What adjustments did the Canadiens make after the first period?
“To be honest, there was a couple of things,” Weber said. “But, like I said, I think we were just rusty. We hadn’t played for a while there. Maybe you kind of lose that edge, that drive for the game. I think the first period kind of woke us up and we got our legs under us again. I thought also in the first we didn’t do a good job of getting pucks behind their D. I think we flipped a lot of pucks to their D and they were able to use their transition and speed like they want to. That’s kind of something that they thrive on.”
Weber scored the lone Canadiens goal in Game 1, giving him 3-2-5 totals in five postseason games. In 70 career playoff games, Weber has 17-19-36 totals.
Making adjustments for Flyers
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault was asked Thursday what adjustments his team might need to make for Game 2.
“You know, really what we expected is what happened,” he said. “If you don’t manage the puck well against Montreal, they can be the top two or three speed in the league. In the second period, our puck management slipped and they came at us, came at us extremely hard. That’s why you need good goaltending.
“We’ve got real solid goaltending throughout the game, but especially in that second period when they came at us,” Vigneault added. “One of our emphasis is making sure with the puck, we’re making the right decisions. We didn’t do it consistently. I thought we did it for the most part in the first and third period but, obviously, in the second period they made it real challenging for us.”
Flyers goalie Carter Hart gave himself an early birthday present when he made 27 saves in Wednesday night’s win.
On Thursday, Hart turned 22.
“I think some guys got him some ice cream yesterday after the game and sang him ‘Happy Birthday,'” teammate Shayne Gostisbehere said during a video conference Thursday. “He’s been pretty good, so let him do his thing.”
Flyers captain Claude Giroux was asked what type of person Hart is off the ice.
“I think before games, he’s in a zone,” Giroux said. “He kind of does his own thing. I think pretty much how a goalie is. Off the ice, when we are back in the bubble, I think he is great storyteller. Justin (Braun) can back me up on that. I think he’s funny in his own way. He’s a goalie. He’s funny.”
“He’s a great young goalie,” teammate Sean Couturier said about Hart after Wednesday night’s game. “A lot of potential. He’s just a true pro ever since he got in. He does a lot of little things right. On and off the ice he prepares himself like a true pro. You can just respect that from a young guy, a young goalie. He’s doing everything he can just to get better.”
How’s the ice?
One of the big questions during this postseason is how’s the ice holding up with so many games being played each day?
Wednesday night’s Canadiens-Flyers game was the third of the day at the Scotiabank Arena.
“I think people are doing everything they can to give us the best ice possible,” Vigneault said. “Obviously, three games in a row and one that went into overtime can be challenging. I didn’t see a lot of differences in the ice.”
“I thought the ice was pretty good,” Giroux added. “I think it was better than during the round-robin. … It was pretty good.”
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