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Canadiens Game Day: Carey Price enjoys the Cayden Primeau Show

Ryan Poehling handles the puck during Canadiens development camp at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on June 26, 2019.
Ryan Poehling handles the puck during Canadiens development camp at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on June 26, 2019.

Carey Price was sitting back and enjoying the show in the Canadiens’ locker room after Wednesday night’s 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre.

While Cayden Primeau — who made 35 saves for his first NHL victory — was swarmed by the media, Price sat quietly in his stall to the left of the rookie goalie with a little grin on his face.

Was it cool to watch?

“Absolutely,” Price said. “It’s fun to see a young guy go through something that you’ve gone through before. It’s exciting times. It’s something that you’ve worked for your whole life and now you’re kind of thrust right into it. Especially not starting the season here. All this probably happens pretty quickly going from Laval to here.”

From the Laval Rocket to the Canadiens to the first star at the Bell Centre Wednesday night in his second NHL start — all in a span of only 10 days. Primeau made 33 saves in his first NHL start last Thursday, a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the Bell Centre.

“It’s been a roller-coaster,” Primeau said. “Being able to get called up, especially to a team like this in an organization like this. It’s crazy. You know you want to get the first win during the first game, but it was a learning experience. I took that over the weekend and really worked towards that and then today not trying to (just) come out with the win, but focus more on just the next shot and the results will come.”

Primeau credited Price for helping make his roller-coaster ride a little smoother.

“He’s been nothing but nice to me and he’s been great,” Primeau said about Price. “Just super helpful. Can’t ask for anything else.”

Price likes what he’s seen from the 20-year-old Primeau both on and off the ice.

“He’s quiet and goes about his business,” Price said. “He’s very professional at such a young age. It’s good to see. I’m sure he is a little bit (nervous) but he handles it well and keeps his composure.

“I’m getting to know him … he’s got to say something sometimes,” Price added with a smile. “He’s a very professional kid and he’s quiet and goes about his business … I t’s getting to be quite the home show.”

And Price was enjoying every minute of it on his night off.

Where they stand

The Canadiens improved their record to 15-11-6 and moved back into a playoff spot in third place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of the Florida Panthers (15-10-5) and two points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (15-13-4). The Panthers hold two games in hand.

After going through an eight-game winless streak (0-5-3), the Canadiens are now 4-1-0 in their last five games while allowing only nine goals.

What’s next for Primeau?

The Canadiens now have to decide what they’re going to do with Primeau moving forward. Do they keep him as Price’s backup, or send him back to Laval to play more games?

“You look at tonight, I didn’t see the nervousness that I saw in the first period of (his) last game,” coach Claude Julien said. “So it was another step in the right direction for him. He was calm, he made some big saves and I liked his game tonight. A couple of two-on-ones and he played the shooter and made some big saves there. So again, I think whether you see him tomorrow or whether you see him in a few years from now, no matter what I think he’s got a nice future ahead of him.”

Julien said a lot of factors will come into play before the Canadiens decide what’s best for Primeau — and them as a team. One thing looks pretty certain, though: the Canadiens found a pretty good goalie in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft with the 199th overall pick.

Monster game for Chiarot

Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot capped off a monster game when he scored the winning goal in overtime on a beautiful setup from Max Domi.

Chiarot logged 25:50 of ice time, had a team-high six shots, along with four hits and finished plus-2. Nick Cousins (power play) and Tomas Tatar also scored for the Candiens, while Domi had two assists.

“Every time I feel like my minutes go up or I’m getting some points or offence or something like that I feel like it’s kind of seen like: Oh, I’m playing the best hockey of my career,” Chiarot said. “But I feel like even if I’m not doing those things I still kind of have a base of a solid game that I play, which is solid defensively and moving the puck pretty simple. And then when things are going well for me I’m using my skating, I’m joining in the offence. So I think you just see another level to my game when I feel that way.”

Chiarot is also enjoying being paired often with captain Shea Weber, who logged a game-high 26:26 of ice time.

“He’s playing amazing,” Chiarot said about the captain. “He’s a great defenceman and I think we work well together. We know where each other are on the ice. We play a similar style with him, obviously, having a bit more offence and me being a little bit more defensive mindset. I think we just work well together.”

The Man Mountain

Weber picked up an assist on Cousins’s goal that opened the scoring at 13:36 of the first period and has 9-11-20 totals in his last 21 games. He ranks fifth among NHL defencemen in scoring with 10-16-26 totals in 32 games and is plus-11 while averaging 23:55 of ice time.

Weber also had enough of Senators forward Brady Tkachuk at 7:39 of the second period, cross-checking the 20-year-old forward and then pulling him out of a scrum and dragging him to the ice.

“I obviously don’t like when anyone hits our goalie or pushes us into him,” the 34-year-old Weber said. “I felt like he cross-checked me into (Primeau) and over him.”

Roster moves

The Canadiens called up forward Ryan Poehling and defenceman Christian Folin from the Rocket Wednesday morning, while forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi was placed on the injured-reserve list with a concussion.

Poehling got in the lineup against the Senators, playing left wing on the fourth line with Nate Thompson at centre and Riley Barber on right wing. Poehling had 9:48 of ice time, the second lowest on the team with Barber playing 9:31. But Julien liked what he saw from Poehling, saying the forward played a “man’s game” while being physical and strong in the corners and in front of the net.

“Honestly, I just tried to go out there and have fun,” Poehling said. “Just enjoy the process. At the end of the day, you’re getting paid to play hockey. So you don’t know when that opportunity could end. So for me you just got to realize how blessed you are just enjoy the process.”

Peca sidelined with injury

A roster spot opened for Poehling after Matthew Peca injured his right leg after falling awkwardly under the weight of Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin during Tuesday night’s 4-1 win in Pittsburgh.

Julien said Peca had an MRI on Wednesday morning and would be re-evaluated by team doctors Wednesday night.

“Obviously, it was an unlucky break for him late in the game yesterday and I thought he was playing good hockey for us,” Julien said. “He was doing exactly what we wanted him to do. He skated well. So it’s a loss for us and it’s an unfortunate loss for him, too.”

Youth movement

The Canadiens had five rookies in their lineup against the Senators: Primeau, Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Cale Fleury and Otto Leskinen.

“You can always second-guess yourself afterwards and say: ‘Geez, should I have had him on the ice?'” Julien said after the game. “But the only way we’re going to get better is by giving them a chance to play and if the results are there at the same time, then great. You’re always trying to put them in positions to succeed. Doesn’t mean that always happens.”

Not a sellout

Attendance Wednesday night was 21,055, marking the 10th time in 18 homes games this season the Canadiens have failed to sell out the Bell Centre, which has a capacity of 21,302.

The Canadiens now have an 8-7-3 record at home and rank second in the NHL in attendance with an average of 21,028, which is 98.9 per cent capacity. The Chicago Blackhawks are averaging 21,356 fans.

What’s next?

The Canadiens won’t practise on Thursday but will make their annual visit to children’s hospitals in Montreal. They have a practice scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard before facing the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., SNE, SN360, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

On Sunday, the Canadiens will fly to Vancouver for their annual Western Canada road trip. They will play the Canucks Tuesday (10 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio), the Calgary Flames Thursday (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio), the Edmonton Oilers Saturday (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports) and the Winnipeg Jets the following Monday (8 p.m., TSN2, TSN3, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

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