EDMONTON — Carey Price and the Canadiens achieved a major feat Saturday night — stopping Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl from burying the puck in Montreal's net.
Keeping the dynamic duo from wreaking havoc was a job for the entire squad en route to the Canadiens 5-1 win over the Oilers, said defenceman Jeff Petry.
“The five guys that were on the ice, it was everyone’s responsibility," he said.
Goalie Carey Price took a large share of the responsibility, stopping 34-of-35 shots for the Canadiens (1-0-1).
McDavid had an opportune chance to get Edmonton (1-2-0) on the board near the end of the first frame, stealing the puck deep in Oilers territory and using his infamous speed to streak down the ice on a breakaway. He unleashed a wrist shot but Price was ready and made the save.
The Oilers sniper was limited to just a secondary assist on Slater Koekkoek's third-period goal Saturday night. Draisaitl was held off the score sheet.
Price wants to play against the world's best and considers McDavid to be just that.
“He’s so talented with his speed and his hands and his vision. And it’s a pleasure to share the ice with him," the goalie said.
Saturday night's game could have had a much different result if not for Price's performance, said Canadiens right-winger Brendan Gallagher.
"He’s so calm, he’s so cool. He just allows you to keep momentum on your side," Gallagher said. "We’re pretty lucky to play in front of him every night.”
Deep offence was also key to Montreal sealing its first victory of the season.
Petry and Tomas Tatar had two goals apiece. Jake Evans also scored, and Gallagher and Phillip Danault each contributed a pair of assists.
“That’s going to be a strength for us all year long. We’re pretty confident with the depth that we have," Gallagher said
"If we can hold each other accountable to show up and come at teams in waves like that … we can come at teams four lines deep. We feel like anyone who’s on the ice can get the job done.”
That depth was evident midway during and Oilers power play midway through the second period.
Price stopped a grade-A chance from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in tight and Montreal came away with the puck, leading to a two-on-one at the other end of the ice.
Evans waltzed in and took a shot that ricocheted off the pads of Edmonton goalie Mikko Koskinen, then back to the centreman's stick. His second attempt was a success, sailing in just below the crossbar for a short-handed goal that put Montreal up 4-0.
Koskinen stopped 30-of-35 shots on the night.
McDavid said he and his teammates didn't do what they needed to do early and ended up chasing for much of the game.
“They were definitely quicker than us," he said. "We’ve got to be better, we’ve got to win more battles. They were definitely the more rested team and they showed that, but I didn’t think our battle level was good enough.”
Oilers coach Dave Tippett said there were parts of the game that he liked, but his team made mistakes that allowed the Canadiens to expand their lead.
“You’ve got to continue to pound away, you’ve got to find ways to win games and you’ve got to do that with consistency in how you play," he said. "We’ve just got to take some mistakes out of it that are giving some holes away.”
Edmonton won't have to wait long for a chance at revenge. The Oilers will once again host the Canadiens Monday for the second half of the back-to-back series.
Montreal coach Claude Julien said his group can't head into the matchup thinking they have an edge based on Saturday's result.
“Teams adjust. There’s also a sense of revenge with a loss," he said.
"We park this win and we take the two points because they’re important, but then we have to realize we’ll probably have an even tougher opponent two days from now.”
NOTES: The Oilers claimed goalie Troy Grosenick off waivers from the L.A. Kings Saturday. Edmonton has also placed netminder Mike Smith on the long-term injury list. … Koskinen played in his 100th regular-season NHL game. … Edmonton right-winger Zack Kassian was out for the game following the birth of his second child, a daughter named Olivia.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.
The Canadian Press