Canadiens coach defends Pacioretty, shrugs off hit on Price

Canadiens coach defends Pacioretty, shrugs off hit on Price

New York Rangers’ Rick Nash, left, celebrates with teammate Jimmy Vesey, center, as Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, left, reacts during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Game 4 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II).

BROSSARD, Que. — Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien wanted to keep things in perspective heading into Game 5 of the playoff series with the New York Rangers.

Regular season scoring leader Max Pacioretty has yet to score in the first four games does not mean he is an underachiever, Julien said. And the team’s failure to start a battle when goalie Carey Price was run over by Rick Nash does not mean the Canadiens are timid or don’t care.

“I know history makes it a little sensitive when you see that happen,” Julien said Wednesday, a day after a 2-1 loss evened the series at 2-2. “There’s a difference between running a goalie and going hard to the net. It’s part of the game. You have to read the situation. If it was intentional, I think you’d see a different reaction.”

Game 5 is Thursday night in Montreal.

Price was not injured when he was bowled over as Nash took the puck hard to the net in the first period, and it was immediately compared by some to an incident in the opening game of the 2014 conference final when New York’s Chris Kreider took the all-star goalie out of the series in a skates-first crash. Nash took a goalie interference penalty and that was about it.

“Obviously, we’re here to protect Carey,” Canadiens centre Steve Ott said. “We’re here to protect each other as well. But you have to be smart in tough situations.”

The Canadiens-Rangers matchup, featuring two teams known more for speed than muscle, has been surprisingly physical so far. The Rangers are 0-for-12 on the power play.

“You’ve got to do it verbally in the playoffs,” said defenceman Nathan Beaulieu. “I know everyone wants us to go and fight and stuff, but in the playoffs that’s how you turn it into a bad penalty that can cost you a series. You can’t retaliate. Nash isn’t a dirty player. He was going hard to the net. We have to take it upon ourselves not to let him drive to the net. That’s all I can say.”

Top New York scorers like Kreider and Derek Stepan have yet to score. Pacioretty, a 35-goal scorer in the regular season, has one assist in four playoff games and he leads the team with 19 shots.

“He’s a good player and whether you guys don’t think he’s done enough, for me internally, I think he’s done a lot and he’s got an opportunity to be better,” Julien said.

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The Associated Press
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