Al Montoya

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Charlie Lindgren’s play allowing Carey Price extra time to recover

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If the Montreal Canadiens were getting ready for a playoff game Tuesday night, then we would be seeing Carey Price back in goal.

But the combination of Price being the franchise goalie, the calendar saying it’s only Nov. 14 and the play of Charlie Lindgren has meant that the netminder will be able to take his time to recover from an injury suffered during warmups on Nov. 2. He’s missed the last five games, but the Habs won four of those five.

Price said on Tuesday that he’s taking a few days off during his recovery because he felt as if he wasn’t progressing like he should have been. He added that the original plan was for him to return Thursday, but now his timeframe for a return is up in the air. The lower-body injury, he stressed, is not related to the MCL sprain in his right knee that kept him out for most of the 2015-16 season.

“It’s been a little bit longer than expected. I kind of expected it to be in the two-week range,” Price said.

As added insurance, and with Al Montoya also injured, the Canadiens claimed Antti Niemi on waivers from the Florida Panthers.

Lindgren has helped the Canadiens win three of his four starts while posting a .974 even strength save percentage. It’s the reverse of two years ago when Montreal’s season went down with Price’s injury. The trio of Mike Condon, Dustin Tokarski and Ben Scrivens couldn’t right the ship. If the 23-year-old Minnesota native is the real deal, he’ll not only keep the team afloat, he’ll also provide head coach Claude Julien with some confidence in his backup allowing Price to get plenty of rest in the second half of the season.

“I just want to make sure that I’m 100 percent and do my job to the best of my ability when I come back,” Price said. “I’m just going to make sure that I take my time with it and it won’t be very long.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Grim times for Canadiens: Price struggles, surgery for Schlemko

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Forgive the Montreal Canadiens if they feel beleaguered heading into Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (which is part of NBCSN’s doubleheader).

After another captivating-but-polarizing summer of changes thanks to GM Marc Bergevin, the spotlight shone a little brighter on the Habs to start. Such magnification made it tough to hide the blemishes of what’s now a 1-4-1 start, even if abysmal luck takes the ugliness to an unrealistic extreme.

If getting beaten down in the local papers and in conventional wisdom didn’t leave them staggering, the Habs are also closing off a back-to-back set after dropping a fifth game in a row via last night’s loss to San Jose.

The hits keep on coming, too, with news that an already-shaky defense corps will lack savvy free agent addition David Schlemko for an estimated three-to-four weeks following hand surgery.

You know things are dreary when one of the more positive bits revolves around starting Al Montoya instead of Carey Price.

It’s true, though, that Montoya’s the right choice here. Most obviously, Price played last night, and you don’t want to lean too hard on any goalie, even one who will begin to cost $10M per season in 2018-19.

Price check

Price’s struggles feel like a microcosm of what this team is going through, as a whole, right now.

In the short term, it’s difficult to imagine things remaining this abhorrent both for the star goalie and his struggling team.

Price’s save percentage stands at .885 so far this season; he’s never been below .905 for a campaign. A 3.56 GAA won’t persist for a netminder who’s never averaged anything above 2.83 (and that was almost a decade ago).

The Canadiens are still easily the worst team in the NHL in both shooting percentage and save percentage perspectives at even-strength. They’re doing so despite grading well by Natural Stat Trick’s various metrics, including getting a friendly percentage of high-danger scoring chances (their fellow dour would-be contenders, the Oilers, feel their pain).

So, a lot of those patterns will just sort of work themselves out naturally.

Still, there are some nagging concerns.

Price already turned 30, and his new, massive cap hit hasn’t even kicked in yet. While goalies have a decent track record of aging more gracefully than, say, snipers, Price’s history of knee issues provides some worry.

Even if he continues to be Carey Price in italics, there really isn’t a great comparable for his contract (Henrik Lundqvist‘s is the closest, according to Cap Friendly). Montreal could serve as a guinea pig for other NHL teams pondering building around an expensive goalie.

Growing pains or signs of a fall?

There are also unsettling questions about Bergevin’s vision, and the way Julien uses players.

Bergevin’s win-now mentality is the source of plenty of debate, but it’s objectively clear that many of his moves have made the Habs older. Shea Weber‘s considerably older than P.K. Subban, and even very young Jonathan Drouin is a grizzled veteran compared to Mikhail Sergachev.

Re-signing Alex Galchenyuk hasn’t ended that saga, and the Habs can’t just blame the media, either.

At the moment, Galchenyuk ranks ninth in even-strength ice time average among Canadiens forwards. He’s currently slated for fourth-line duty alongside Torrey Mitchell and Ales Hemsky.

If the goal is to eventually trade him, this is a backwards way of doing so. If the goal is to “send him a message,” there seems to be a better time than when your team isn’t exactly setting nets on fire like “NBA Jam.”

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When you break things down issue by issue, it’s reasonable to expect better times. Still, it’s tough to shake the worrying signs overall, whether you’re just looking at 2017-18 or beyond.

Things could at least look a little sunnier if Montreal can dig deep and come out of this California trip with a win or two.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Bolts storm back to defeat Capitals in overtime

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Lightning shut down the NHL’s top scorer and rallied from a two-goal deficit for a quality win.

Brayden Point scored on a power play in overtime, Tampa Bay held high-scoring Alex Ovechkin pointless and the Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Monday night.

“The team that deserved to win won tonight,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “We were a determined group.”

Point redirected Nikita Kucherov‘s shot at 3:08 that came after the Capitals were assessed a too many men on the ice penalty.

Ovechkin entered with seven goals in Washington’s first two games this season.

Tampa Bay also got goals from Alex Killorn, Chris Kunitz and Kucherov, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 23 saves.

T.J. Oshie had two goals and an assist, while Nicklas Backstrom added a goal and two assists for the Capitals. Philipp Grubauer stopped 36 shots in his first game of the season.

“The good and bad is, I thought we could have left here with two points and are leaving here with one,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said.

Kucherov tied it at three on an in-close backhander at 10:46 of the third.

Ovechkin had three goals in the third period in Thursday’s opening night win at Ottawa, then matched the feat while helping chase Montreal goalie Carey Price in the first period Saturday. He added his fourth goal in the second period against Al Montoya.

Ovechkin, bidding to become the first NHL player to have a hat trick in three consecutive games, had a power-play scoring chance from the left circle in the second turned aside by Vasilevskiy. He finished with four shots and was a minus-2

Backstrom and Oshie, on a power play deflection from the slot, scored 1:23 apart late in the first as Washington took a 2-0 lead.

After Killorn and Oshie, with the man advantage, traded goals early in the second, Kunitz’s redirection cut the deficit to 3-2 with 1:51 left in the period.

“A good building block for our team,” Kunitz said.

Grubauer made several strong saves, including Steven Stamkos‘ left circle drive, during an early third period power play.

Vasilevskiy stopped a first-period breakaway by Evgeny Kuznetsov, who got his eighth assist on Oshie’s second goal.

“We had a couple chances to make it 4-1 and we didn’t,” Trotz said. “They just chipped away.”

Auston Matthews puts on a show in preseason tilt vs. Habs

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Auston Matthews and William Nylander are showing no signs of any sophomore slump so far through the pre-season.

Matthews had a hat trick and an assist and Nylander had a goal and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in an NHL preseason game on Monday night.

Matthews scored his first goal of the game 47 seconds into the first period. His wrist shot from just inside the blue line went over the right shoulder of Canadiens goaltender Al Montoya.

Matthews made it 2-0 at 4:56. Nylander’s initial shot went high, and Matthews batted down the rebound and into an open side of the net.

He scored his third goal in the third period. While on a breakaway, Matthews shot the puck between the legs of Montoya at 3:46.

Matthews has four goals and two assists in three preseason games.

Jeff Petry scored for Montreal while on the power play at 11:37 of the second period.

Nylander scored at 6:03 of the third period to give Toronto a 5-1 lead.

Patrick Marleau also had a goal for Toronto while Frederik Andersen made 20 saves.

 

Habs re-sign Charlie Lindgren to one-year, two-way deal

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Just days after signing Carey Price to an $84-million contract extension, the Montreal Canadiens have re-signed another one of their goaltenders on Thursday.

The club agreed to terms on a one-year, two contract with Charlie Lindgren.

The 23-year-old signed with the Canadiens during the 2015-16 season after spending three years in the NCAA with St. Cloud State.

Last season, he spent most of the year as the starting goalie with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, but he also saw action in two NHL games.

Lindgren was a perfect 2-0 in his two starts with the Habs. He posted a 1.48 goals-against-average and a .949 save percentage in victories over Florida and Detroit.

He’ll go into training camp as the third goalie on the depth chart behind Price and Al Montoya.