MONTREAL — Shea Weber has been a leader for the Montreal Canadiens all season long.
So when the veteran defenseman was assessed a double minor for high-sticking with 1:01 remaining in the third period of a tie game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, his teammates vowed to have his back.
They did exactly that, killing the penalty before Josh Anderson scored his second goal of the game at 3:57 of overtime for a 3-2 win to extend the best-of-7 series.
“It shows how much they care for their captain,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said.
It was fitting that the penalty kill played a key role in helping Montreal reach Game 5 at Tampa Bay on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Entering Monday, the Canadiens had the best penalty kill during the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 90.6 percent, including a stretch when they went 13 games without allowing a power-play goal (30-for-30).
Although they struggled a bit against the Lightning in the first three games, allowing two goals on seven opportunities, the Canadiens’ penalty kill came up big again in Game 4, going 5-for-5, with none bigger than the last.
Without Weber, who leads Montreal in shorthanded time on ice during the postseason, the Canadiens were able to kill the final 61 seconds of the third period without allowing Tampa Bay to get a shot on goal before heading to the locker room knowing they would have to do the same for the first 2:59 of overtime.
“We said we have a big kill, we’re going to kill it and then we’re going to go after it and win that game,” Ducharme said.
Prophetic words indeed.
Carey Price made four saves to help finish the remaining penalty, including one on Steven Stamkos and the rebound in front by Brayden Point, and 58 seconds after Weber exited the penalty box, Anderson scored the winner while falling down in front.
“Our penalty kill has been outstanding all playoffs,” Anderson said. “We came back in the room and, like I’ve said, we just believe in each other. We weren’t down. All positive things in the room. We just had to execute. I thought we did a phenomenal job.”
An old hockey adage states a hot goalie is a team’s best penalty killer. Anderson said that was the case with Price.
“Obviously, Carey was a wall tonight and gave us that chance, you know, to finish it in overtime there,” he said.
This was a much more calm, cool and collected Price than the goalie who allowed 13 goals on 79 shots through the first three games.
“I can definitely play better,” Price said after the 6-3 loss in Game 3. “It’s just not good enough so far.”
It was in Game 4.
With legendary Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy watching from a private box alongside fellow Hall of Famers Guy Lafleur and Yvan Cournoyer, Price made 32 saves. And as usual, the understated goalie gave credit to his teammates, especially for their effort during the last penalty kill.
“I thought our guys were playing really well in front of me,” Price said. “We’re doing our best to limit chances and clear rebounds.
“We faced adversity all season long and have responded well. We’ve got a lot of work left to do.”