MONTREAL — It is a moment that will forever be etched in the memory of anyone who came to the Bell Centre to watch Carey Price make history. A desperate pad save on Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi, who had a breakaway from his own blue line. The type of play worthy of the winningest goaltender in Canadiens history. The type of play he’s made time and time again with his team’s hopes hanging in the balance—as they were in this one when he stretched the width of the goal line to get his toe on the puck and preserved a 2-1 lead.
Think about the 110-year history of the Canadiens for a second. Think about it being made in this fashion by a player in 2019. A player notching the 315th win of his career to pass one who recorded his 314th in 1963. That is something miraculous.
How Price notched this record-breaking win was something incredible, too, starting with a breakaway save on Andreas Athanasiou on the very first shot of the game and ending with a sharp challenge on a Danny DeKeyser shot to the blocker side. In between, he stopped Darren Helm’s sneaky backhand from the slot, got the shaft of his stick on a heat-seeking slapshot from Thomas Vanek, and he made the splits to stop Justin Abdelkader on the doorstep.
At one point, Price took an Anthony Mantha slapshot to the chest and in desperation made a Martin Brodeur-like scorpion save on the rebound Michael Rasmussen pushed at him.
When asked how he made that memorable save on Bertuzzi, Price laughed and quipped, “I just tried to do the Dominator and just spread out and cover the goal line,” paying homage to the great Dominik Hasek.
Max Domi, who scored two goals to help the Canadiens beat the Red Wings 3-1, had a good view of the play from Montreal’s bench.
“It’s an absolute joke,” Domi said. “Honestly, it’s crazy how good he is. The saves he makes—on the bench we’re just laughing. It’s just crazy. He’s the best in the world for a reason. He has been for a long time and he will be for an even longer time.”
And on Price’s accomplishment?
“It’s a pretty special night for him and we’re happy to be part of it,” Domi said.
He wasn’t alone. There were 21,302 people who packed the Bell Centre to bear witness to this event. As many as half of them were still in the stands when Price took his final curtain call as the game’s first star. Among them were many people of his generation; people who know only of the legend of Plante—the first goalie to don a mask in a game, a Stanley Cup-winning Hall-of-Famer whose name is etched across a banner that hangs from the rafters of the Bell Centre. They are people who would have faint memories, if any, of Patrick Roy in his prime with the Canadiens; people who might vaguely recall Jose Theodore’s 2002 Hart Trophy bid; people who bore witness to Jaroslav Halak’s 2010 playoff heroics and didn’t quite value Price until they saw him backstop Team Canada to a gold medal in the 2014 Olympics before completing a season that had him collect the Hart, Vezina and Jennings Trophies and the Ted Lindsay Award.
“It was a great time to share it with the fans,” Price said.
His relationship with them has been tumultuous. When he’s struggled, they’ve been merciless—booing him and mock-cheering him. When he’s excelled, they’ve risen to their feet and chanted his name at full volume—like they did after he stopped Bertuzzi on that breakaway Tuesday night.
Surely all of that was swirling around Price’s head in the lead-up to this event, but as he said, he’s not quite ready to think long on any of it.
“I’ll definitely have time to reflect on it, but I don’t feel that time is quite yet,” Price added.
In Year 1 of an eight-year, $84-million contract, it’ll be some time before Price reviews all the things that brought him to this moment. In sharper focus is the win notched to keep the Canadiens entrenched in their battle for one of the eight playoff spots available in the Eastern Conference.
“It was definitely an important two points for us,” Price said, surely aware that the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins had done their part in games earlier in the evening to remain ahead in the race. “Obviously we’re in a dog fight right now and every effort put out for the rest of the season’s going to be very important. So I feel like if we continue play the way we did tonight, we’ll be successful.”
The Canadiens weren’t necessarily at their peak, but they out-shot the young, struggling Red Wings 36-21 and out-chanced them handily.
Without Price, though? Different story.
“He controls the game and it just kind of settles everything down, just like the way he did tonight,” said captain Shea Weber, who was describing what we’ve seen from Price since he first pulled on a Canadiens sweater in 2007.
The 31-year-old goaltender has created indelible moments over his 12 years in uniform. The ones he authored on Tuesday will live forever.