Thursday night belonged, for better or worse, to goaltenders. In Vancouver, it was poor Richard Bachman’s nightmare to behold as he was lit up by the Minnesota Wild. And in Calgary, it was Mike Smith who was on the losing end once again.
Also in Calgary, it was Montreal’s Carey Price who came through. Big time.
The 3-2 win marked a rare comeback victory this season for the Canadiens, but it also marked a stellar outing by Price. He made 43 saves and looked like the goaltender Habs fans know he can be, a far cry from the week-ago “it’s all upstairs” rattler that he appeared to be after losing to the Sabres in overtime.
Price hasn’t been remarkable this season, truth be told. But his performance Thursday may have put some pieces in place to return him to form.
Just as Smith’s performance down the ice put more building blocks in place to Calgary’s discontent, Price’s showing gave his team the will to win. And win they did.
Price improved to 6-4-3, with a .899 save percentage and a 2.99 goals against average. Those aren’t great numbers by any extent.
But boy, he was great against the Flames. Check out, for example, the bombardment that was the second period. Calgary cranked out 19 shots in the middle frame alone and he stood tall. In the third period, he was first-rate when he mugged Elias Lindholm from 20 feet.
20 Flames shots were from that magic area, by the way.
They say a sign of having a great goaltender is that he steals games. Academically, the Habs didn’t deserve the win against the Flames. They didn’t tighten up, they didn’t adjust, they didn’t – obviously – carve down on the opposition’s shots. They hung Price out to dry more than a few times and he was up to the task.
He stole the win.
For a guy who sat the last two games to figure out that aforementioned “upstairs” matter, Thursday was a good day.
As for Smith and the Flames, Thursday was not a good day. This time, a scrawny Artturi Lehkonen goal was the squeaker the netminder could’ve and should’ve had.
“I honestly have no idea how that went in,” said Smith after the game. “It’s obviously a goal that can’t happen. I’m as mind-boggled as you guys are right now probably.”
Mind-boggled is probably the word.
The good news is that the Flames are still okay in the standings and have some legroom. The bad news is that Smith doesn’t appear to be turning a corner anytime soon. He could recover, a la Price, and have a golden game. But it looks like David Rittich will be the one to step in Saturday against Edmonton, which means his red redemption will have to wait.