Rusty Price lets in two goals on 15 shots in Laval Rocket’s loss to Toronto


What was officially designated as a conditioning assignment was an opportunity for the veterans to get some ice time under game conditions.

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The Canadiens decided to give goaltender Carey Price and forward Brendan Gallagher an opportunity to take their games for a test drive Monday.

Price, who hadn’t played a game since he suffered a concussion on April 19, and Gallagher, who has been out since April 5 with a broken thumb, joined the Laval Rocket at the Bell Centre their final game of the American Hockey League season against the Toronto Marlies.

What was officially designated as a conditioning assignment was an opportunity for the veterans to get some ice time under game conditions before the Canadiens open their best-of-seven North Division semifinal against the Maple Leafs Thursday in Toronto (7:30 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Price, who has looked sharp in practice, was scheduled to play the first 30 minutes, just long enough to prove that he’s ready to start Game 1.

But after Price gave up two goals on four shots in the first 4:11 of the game, it was obvious that he thought he needed some extra work because, when it was time for Cayden Primeau to replace him with seven minutes to go in the second period, Price decided to stay in the game. At the time, he had faced only 11 shots. He finished two periods of work with 13 saves on 15 shots.

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Bobby McMann opened the scoring for Toronto with a power-play goal, on a high shot to the far post on Price’s glove hand. Stefan Noesen made it 2-0 when scored off a scramble in front of the net.

As for Gallagher, he didn’t show any ill effects from the broken thumb. He was his usually feisty self as he battled for the puck along the boards and fought for position in front of the net. He had two shots on goal and took a double minor penalty for high-sticking.

“I really wanted to play a game before the playoffs started, and that wasn’t possible with our schedule,” Gallagher said after the game. “With this week off (general manager Marc Bergevin) approached me to see if I wanted to play and I was all for it. You can’t simulate game action in practice, those little plays you have to make when you’re tired. I was really happy these guys let me come out, and so was Price.”

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While Laval coach Joël Bouchard’s main task is to prepare young players for the Canadiens, he wasn’t surprised to find the two veterans in his lineup.

“In my head, I knew it was a possibility,” Bouchard said after the Rocket’s morning skate. “I was looking at the logistics of the Canadiens and he couldn’t really get them to play. This is a possibility to give them a little mileage before they start against Toronto.”

While the exercise was mostly about getting some ice time for Gallagher and Price, Bouchard said there were also advantages for the Rocket, who dominated the AHL’s Canadian Division but were deprived of a chance to compete in the playoffs because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“It comes at the right time for our guys,” said Bouchard. It has been an extremely gruelling week with four games in five nights. I overtaxed guys a lot because we’ve been short on personnel and we had to use some of our defencemen as forwards. We had to face some elite goalkeepers this week who made it difficult for us. Having Carey and Gally brings a different energy. They are all-star NHL players. It will be a great reward for the players to be able to experience it with them.”

The Canadiens spent Monday watching videos, attending meetings and working out in the gym. They return to the ice Tuesday and the big question is whether defenceman Shea Weber will practice with the team. His upper body injury involves his hand or his wrist and he is questionable for
Thursday.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

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