Dominique Ducharme said the Montreal Canadiens will continue to improve after evening the Stanley Cup Semifinals with a 3-2 victory at the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 on Wednesday.
“Overall we liked the way we played,” the coach said. “And I think we will be better next game.
“And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Inspired by a 29-save performance from Carey Price and the return of defenseman Jeff Petry, the Canadiens will carry momentum into Game 3 of the best-of-7 series at home Friday (8 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, SN, TVAS, USA).
The Canadiens are in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2014, when they lost the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final to the New York Rangers in six games. It didn’t go well for them or Price.
In Game 1 of that series, Price sustained a lower-body injury when Rangers forward Chris Kreider crashed into him after missing the net on a breakaway in the second period of New York’s 7-2 victory. Price missed the remainder of the series.
He said he’s embracing the opportunity to be here again, and he’s backing it up on the ice.
Price made a number of impressive saves, none better than at 5:17 of the second period when Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez appeared to have an open net only to have his shot from close range deflect off the top of the goalie’s outstretched right thigh. Asked which body part he used to make the save, Price smiled wryly.
“Just using all my extremities so far,” Price said. “It’s just all about competing.”
No one competed harder than Petry, who had missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury. Petry, who led Montreal defensemen with 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists) in the regular season, had an assist, two shots and two blocked shots in 20:47 of ice time.
Price laughed when asked about Petry’s eyes, which are red because of blood-vessel issues.
“He’s scary-looking,” Price said. “But he’s obviously a big part of our team and he had a big game tonight.”
Petry did not take part in line rushes before the game, leading to speculation that he would not play. Ducharme was glad he did.
“If it was up to him, he would have come back earlier,” he said.
Petry sustained the injury in a 5-1 victory against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Second Round. Montreal swept the series in four games.
“Even when it happened, he wanted to play against Winnipeg in Game 4,” Ducharme said. “It’s good to see him back and see the way he played after missing a couple of games and a few days.
“He’s an important player for us. The way he defends, the way he moves, and the way he moves the puck, it’s really good. And he’s a gamer. Every time you get in critical moments in big games, you see him at his best.”