It seemed like any hope the Montreal Canadiens had of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins rested on the shoulders of goaltender Carey Price.
Price has shouldered a big load in net, but he’s not the only reason the high-powered Penguins are on the brink of elimination, down 2-1 in the best-of-five qualifying round series. Montreal has held star Russian center Evgeni Malkin to zero even-strength points with one power-play assist through three games and can knock out Pittsburgh with one more victory in Game 4 Friday (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream).
“Pricey’s been really solid: He’s making some key saves for us,” center Phillip Danault said. “But yeah, he’s not alone in this and it’s important for him to know. We show some character, we go toe to toe. We embrace the challenge.”
The Eastern Conference’s 12th (and lowest) seed has shut down the NHL’s best team that didn’t get the luxury of a bye into the traditional first round of the playoffs. Beyond Price’s 104 saves on 111 shots to match the lofty expectations for his game, the Canadiens have held the Penguins to three power-play goals in 15 chances and bottled up an opponent that won the Stanley Cup twice in the previous four seasons.
Two-time playoff MVP Sidney Crosby has scored twice and added an assist, though Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust are also tied with him for the most points on the Penguins with three. The team defense in front of Price has been suffocating and explains why the Canadiens are a win away from advancing.
“We’re definitely aware when Malkin’s on the ice or Crosby’s on the ice and we try and limit their chances and take their space away as quick as possible,” Montreal defenseman Ben Chiarot said. “But they’re world-class players and they’re going to get their opportunities, and that’s when Carey steps in and does what he’s been doing for us. It’s five of us out there working together, playing defense and we’re just trying to keep it as tight as possible when those guys are on the ice.”