MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens needed a full-team effort to shut down the NHL’s best offensive line.
Carey Price stopped 28 shots for his third shutout of the season as the Canadiens beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on Saturday night.
Brett Kulak, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jordie Benn all scored in the third period for the Canadiens, who had lost three of their last four games. Price got his 43rd career shutout.
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen – who have combined for 73 goals and 112 assists this season – hardly threatened Price, firing a total five shots on net.
“We played them well,” Price said. “They’re a good line and we did an excellent job tonight.”
The Avalanche’s top trio has scored nearly half of the team’s goals but it was harmless against the Canadiens, who clogged up the neutral zone and limited the visitors’ chances.
“Obviously they’re one of the best lines in the league,” Montreal captain Shea Weber said. “Dangerous from one side to the other. We talked about not just the five guys that are out there, there are other guys that had to play against them and everybody did a good job tonight.”
Semyon Varlamov gave up two goals on 30 shots for the slumping Avalanche, losers of nine of their last 10 (1-7-2).
‘MacKinnon saw his eight-game point streak snapped while Landeskog’s three-game multi-point streak ended.
“We didn’t give them much space,” Canadienns coach Claude Julien said of the MacKinnon line. “We kept trying to kill the play as quickly as possible. And we had more than one line playing against their top line so we were always fresh when they hit the ice.”
After two scoreless periods, Kulak scored his second of the season to break the deadlock. With the Canadiens playing short-handed, Kulak scored right off a faceoff in Colorado’s zone at 8:21 of the third.
The goal revitalized the home side and Kotkaniemi made it 2-0 at 10:39 on a one-timer after nifty stick work by Jonathan Drouin along the half-wall.
“We got running around, an extended shift, Montreal kept it in our zone,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of the reaction to Kulak’s goal. “Probably their best shift of the game, and not so much on our side. There was probably some disappointment from our guys, maybe hanging their heads for a couple of seconds. Next thing you know, Montreal turns it on and gets the second one.
“That’s how our game’s been going right now.”
Benn added an empty-netter with 1:16 left.
Colorado has dropped the first three games on its current five-game Canadian road trip.
“We have to stick together and find a way through this,” Landeskog said. “We can’t look at anybody else and hope that we’re going to get help. We have to come together and figure a way out of this. And I have no doubt we will, but nonetheless it’s frustrating.”
Price was solid between the pipes, making key saves to keep the Canadiens in the game. In the first, Price made a hard glove save look easy when Tyson Jost walked in all alone. In the third, with the game still scoreless, the 31-year-old stopped Matt Calvert on the breakaway.
With Montreal’s recent scoring woes – five goals in its previous four games – Julien shuffled his top three lines to provide a spark on offense. Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault were moved to the top line with Drouin, and Max Domi was dropped to center the second line. Tomas Tatar, who’s played the entire season with Gallagher and Danault, was demoted to the third line alongside rookie Kotkaniemi and Paul Byron.
Julien also tweaked his two power-play units, to no avail. Montreal’s league-worst power play went 0 for 3. Montreal’s best chance with the man advantage came four minutes into the third period when captain Shea Weber’s one-timer hit the post.
NOTES; The Canadiens are 1 for 20 on the power play in their last six games. They’re 0 for 27 on the power play at home dating back to Dec. 1. … Price is three shutouts away from tying Ken Dryden for third on the Canadiens all-time list. … Colorado F Nathan MacKinnon saw his eight-game point streak snapped. … The Avalanche have allowed 41 goals in their last nine road games.
Avalanche: At Toronto on Monday night.
Canadiens: At Boston on Monday night.
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