Price healthy to start Game 1, help Canadiens begin anew in playoffs

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Carey Price said he’s feeling good and optimistic about the Montreal Canadiens beginning the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a clean slate.

The goalie will start Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, TVAS). He missed 19 of Montreal’s final 21 regular-season games because of injuries, including the last 13 with a concussion.

“It’s a golden opportunity, we’re all excited to play,” Price said. “I know for myself it’s an exciting opportunity to play in the playoffs again for a second straight year, so we’re looking forward to getting into that first game and trying to build some momentum.”

Price sustained a concussion in a collision with Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson on April 19, his second start after missing six games with a lower-body injury. He said he had bad symptoms the next two days, including a headache.

“It wasn’t a pleasant time, so I’m thankful to be feeling better now,” Price said.

Price was 12-7-5 with a 2.64 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and one shutout in 25 games this season. His save percentage was the second lowest in his 14-season NHL career, ahead of the .900 he had in 49 games (48 starts) in 2017-18. His 1.78 GAA, .936 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games in the 2020 playoffs helped the Canadiens advance to the Eastern Conference First Round, a six-game loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

“He’s calm, he’s in control and he’s a competitor,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said. “The guys know he’s going to rise at the right time and he’s going to be at his best, so that’s why he has that impact on the team.”

Canadiens forward Phillip Danault said he’s recovered from a concussion that kept him out of the lineup for the final three regular-season games.

“Carey’s the same, he’s always going to be the same,” Danault said. “He’s battling hard in practice. We all know he fought through a big injury this year. Obviously he’s played a lot of games in the past. He’s our top goalie. It’s normal, sometimes you get hurt during the year. Jake (Allen) was huge for us this year, but ‘Pricey’s’ 100 percent from what I see. And he worked really hard to get back to 100 percent, so it’s good to see that.”

Danault and linemates Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar will be assigned to defend Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. Matthews scored an NHL-high 41 goals in 52 games. Marner led the Maple Leafs with 67 points (20 goals, 47 assists) in 55 games.

“Marner and Matthews are two elite players, two superstars,” Danault said. “It’s normal that they get points in almost every game, a bit like (Oilers forwards Connor) McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl. They’re like a two-headed monster too. They’re players who go everywhere. They go to the right places to score. They’re tough to contain and it’s very rewarding when you do. They’re excellent players and it’s tough every time you face them.”

Price laughed when asked if he had learned anything about how to read Matthews’ shot.

“I wouldn’t tell you if I did, but he’s definitely got a deceptive release and you just have to react to it, try to read it as best as possible,” Price said. “There’s no secrets to it. We know he’s got a world-class shot and we need to try to take that opportunity away from him as much as possible.”

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