Friday , February 3 2023

Canadiens Game Day: Hurricanes goalie shines in 2-1 win over Habs



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Picking the first star at the Bell Center Tuesday night was not a tough job.

Carolina goalkeeper Curtis McElhinney stopped 48 of 49 shots to win the honor as the Hurricanes beat the Canadiens 2-1. Victor Rask and Trevor van Riemsdyk beat Canadian Goalkeeper Carey Price on deflections, while Phillip Danault was the only Canadian to put McQuin's puck past. Price stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced.

Hurricanes defenceman Justin Faulk was named the second star despite being pointless and minus-1 and Danault was the third star.

"He made some saves," the Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher said after the game about McElhinney. "But that's kind of the easy way out. I think we got to make it tougher on him. You got to outwork the goalie, too. He's no different than any other player. You got to find a way to outwork him. There's always a way to get pucks by him and I think that's an area that we could probably look at tonight and get better at. "

The Canadiens saw their record fall to 11-9-5 with the loss and they are now winless in their last five games (0-3-2). The Canadiens also fell out of a playoff position, with the Hurricanes improving their record to 12-9-3 to move into the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens and Hurricanes both have 27 points, but Carolina has played one less game and has one more win.

"It's tough," Gallagher said about the losing streak. "That was one of the things we were pretty good at early on in the year was once we lost we bounced back with a win. And it's not like our game has slipped tremendously. The longer you go in the season, the harder these games are to win. I think that's where we can probably dig in a little bit more as a group, understand it's going to get more and more difficult and that we got to our game a little bit and up our competing level and find ways to win these close games .

"Points every night are so important," Gallagher added. "You look around the league, I think pretty much everyone still feels they have a shot to make the playoffs. When you get that situation you're going to play hungry teams and for us right now I think we probably got to up our desperation level to end this little skid that we're on. "

The Canadiens' Nicolas Deslauriers and Jonathan Drouin both missed empty-net opportunities to score and Max Domi hit the post with less than two minutes left in the third period with Goalkeeper Carey Price pulled for an extra attacker. Gallagher said the Canadiens fed off the Bell Center crowd after Danault's goal at 9:29 of the third period cut the Hurricanes' lead in half.

"Definitely," Gallagher said. "That's something we always talk about. A couple of games here in a row, you just need to get that first and the crowd gets into it and that plays an impact for us. "

Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they could not get a second shot past McElhinney.

Man Mountain returns

Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber played his first game in almost a year after recovering from foot and knee surgeries, but you would never know he had been gone that long by watching him.

Weber logged a game-high 25:19 of ice time, picked up an assist and was plus-1 with three shots on goal and one hit.

Weber received a nice ovation from the Bell Center fans when he got on the ice for his first shift early in the first period.

"That was special," Weber said. "Obviously, I was nervous before the game and anxious to get my first shift out of the way so that definitely helped."

Said Gallagher about Weber: "I think you noticed him all over the ice. It thinks the amount of time we spent in our own zone was definitely less. His presence in front of our net was seen as well. I think his shot … he got off at least five or six pretty good one-timers tonight. You give him that many opportunities, eventually they're going to start going in. I think just every aspect of the game and then, obviously, he's the leader of our group, so it was nice to have him back. "

It was Weber's first game since the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game last Dec. 16 in Ottawa and also his first game wearing the "C" as captain.

"Weby's just a really strong, heady player," said David Schlemko, who logged 20:53 of ice time as Weber's defense partner. "He always seems to be in the right position. He likes to talk, I like to talk out there, so it makes it easier going back for pucks and moving it out of your zone. Obviously, with his shot he's a threat in the zone and every time I get the puck I'm looking to see if he's open to let that slapper go. "

Price goes back to white pads

Price went back to the white pads he started the season with after going 2-4-2 while wearing red ones.

"I was just trying something new and I liked it so I went back to white," Price said after the game. "I'll probably go back to red after this."

Price had the hit of the night when he flattened the Hurricanes' Warren Foegele behind the net during the second period.

"It just kind of got jammed up in the boards," Price said. "It wound up in my feet and in his feet, so I just hit him. I do not think I hit him very hard, but he must not have had the balance or something. "

Price now has a 7-7-4 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage.

Power play struggles again

The Canadiens were hoping Weber would give them a boost on their power play, which was ranked 30th in the NHL heading into the game, but they went 0-for-3 against the Hurricanes.

"I think Shea Weber is a pretty big weapon for any power play," coach Claude Julien said after Tuesday's skate. "I think other teams recognize that. Maybe that opens up some stuff that we did not have as open as before. If not, then he's definitely a guy who can really shoot the puck and have been good on the power play forever. At the same time, I think we all need to sometimes simplify our plays. It's about moving the puck quickly, it's about making easy plays. Every once in a while I find we're looking for the fancy or fortunate plays, which often gets us in trouble. So it's about simplifying certain things and being a bit more effective. "

Said Weber after the game about the power play: "We just got to get on the same page. We're working on it. We're working before practice, during practice. So I think we're going to get it figured out. But as of right now it's just not clicking like it should be. "

Quote of the Day

Rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi was asked after the morning to skate what it's like to stand in front of the net on the power play during practice when Weber is winding up at the point for a slapshot.

"I almost peed in my pants," Kotkaniemi said. "That's pretty scary. You guys should try that. "

Relief for Petry

Weber's return will cut down on the workload Jeff Petry had while filling the No. 1 defenceman role in the captain's absence.

Heading into Tuesday night's game, Petry was leading the Canadiens in ice time with an average of 24:57 per game.

"I enjoyed it .. I liked playing the heavy minutes," Petry said after the morning skate about replacing Weber. "But I think having him back and lightening the load a little bit will benefit my game.

"I think everybody did a good job stepping up and knowing that he was going to be out to start the year, that we all needed to be good and pick up the slack with his absence," Petry added. "It called on other guys to step up.

"I think it's good for our whole team," Petry said about having Weber back. "I think he's a guy who brings leadership and he brings just a presence on the ice that I think will be beneficial to us."

After the game, Julien had praise for Petry, who logged 22:53 of ice time against the Hurricanes and had five shots on goal, along with three hits, while paired with Brett Kulak.

"Jeff was a good soldier for us on that first pair," Julien said. "You can say 1A, 1B (with Weber). It's good to have those two guys on the right side that stabilizes the second pair, no doubt. Because Petey becomes a real strong second right as far as I'm concerned. "

Domi held off scoresheet again

Domi was held off the scores for the third straight game against the Hurricanes.

Domi has only been held off the scores six times in 25 games this season and leads the Canadians in scoring with 11-15-26 totals. Before this mini-slump, Domi had a 11-game point streak.

Hudon sets team record for hits

Charles Hudon set to Canadiens record when he registered 13 hits on Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at the Bell Center, but he had only two against the Hurricanes.

Hudon's performance against the Bruins only marked the 26th time when the NHL player had 13 hits in a single game since the league started keeping track of the statistics during the 1997-98 season.

The previous Canadiens record was 11 hits, shared by Nicolas Deslauriers, Mike Komisarek and Chad Kilger. The NHL record of 17 hits is shared by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Gary Roberts.

What's next?

The Canadiens will have the day off Wednesday, followed by practices on Thursday and Friday scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard to prepare for back-to-back weekend games at the Bell Center against the New York Rangers on Saturday (7 pm, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio) and the San Jose Sharks on Sunday (7 pm, SN1, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

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