MONTREAL — Carey Price said he has not played up to his own expectations and needs to improve if the Montreal Canadiens hope to extend their postseason run.
Price and the Canadiens have little time to rediscover their collective games after losing 6-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bell Centre in Game 3 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final on Friday. They are one loss from being swept in the best-of-7 series; Game 4 is here Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“I can definitely play better,” the goalie said. “It’s just not good enough so far.”
The 1989 Calgary Flames are the only team to defeat the Canadiens and win the Stanley Cup on Montreal ice, that coming at the fabled Montreal Forum.
“We don’t have a choice,” Price said. “We’ve overcome adversity all season. Our backs are obviously against the wall, so we’ve got to start bringing our best.”
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Price certainly hasn’t been that through the first three games of the series.
He entered the Final on a roll, going 12-5 with a 2.02 goals-against average, .934 save percentage, one shutout through the first three rounds, and was the backbone of a Cinderella Montreal team that had played with confidence.
It has been a far different story against the Lightning.
Price has allowed 13 goals on 79 shots in the series. Ten of those goals came on the first 55 he faced. Tampa Bay’s first two goals in Game 4, by Jan Rutta and Victor Hedman, were both long shots from the point.
Montreal’s issues cut much deeper than just Price, however. Their slow starts have cost them significantly in this series.
The Canadiens scored first in 13 of the 17 games entering the Final. But the Lightning have opened the scoring in all three games in the series.
It’s a recipe that is leading the Canadiens to disaster.
Coach Dominique Ducharme had to call a timeout after goals by Rutta and Hedman gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead 3:27 in the game. It was Ducharme’s first game back after completing the required 14-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 on June 18.
Phillip Danault put some life back into the building by scoring at 11:16 of the first to bring the Canadiens to within 2-1. But that momentum was short-lived when Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov scored 3:33 into the second to put Tampa Bay up 4-1.
The Canadiens, a team that got here with the help of its quick starts, is mired in a series of bad ones.
“It’s tough obviously,” Canadiens captain Shea Weber said. “We put ourselves in a hole early. It’s tough digging yourselves out of a hole against a team like that that plays pretty stingy.”
Now the Canadiens are faced with the prospect of watching the Lightning skate around hoisting the Stanley Cup in their arena.
Forward Brendan Gallagher said the Canadiens won’t go down without a fight.
“We’re in a hole,” Gallagher said. “It goes without saying.
“But I can promise you one thing about this group. There won’t be any quit.”