Canadiens need more from star goalie

Carey Cost looked at the puck in the web behind him in a must-win Video game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Looking right back at Cost and his Canadiens colleagues is a near-impossible deficit, down 3-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning and dealing with the possibility of removal in Video game 4 Monday in your home. After Montreal depended on him a lot to make it through the playoffs, Cost seems using down, and some really stoppable shots entering have actually added to this scenario.

“We win as a group, we lose a group,” coach Dominique Ducharme said in French after the 6-3 loss Friday night. “We all want to do better.”

Still, the Canadiens need Price to play better than he has the past two games.

He was beaten clean twice in the first four minutes by Tampa Bay defensemen Jan Rutta and Victor Hedman as part of a terrible start to Game 3 that wasn’t all on Price. Tyler Johnson scored twice off bad rebounds that were very un-Price-like.

Even Game 2 wasn’t his finest hour. Price gave up a goal to Anthony Cirelli on a seemingly harmless shot and a backbreaker to Blake Coleman, who knocked in the puck diving with one hand with 1.1 seconds left in the second period.

Asked how he felt he was playing this series, Price said: “I can absolutely play much better. It’s simply unsatisfactory up until now.”

The Canadiens as a group have not sufficed to deal with a deep, gifted Lightning challenger that understands how to win in the playoffs. They began the last by effectively getting traffic in front of Cost and scoring objectives on shots he could not see or be blamed for.

“We depend on Carey being the rock back there and he constantly is,” Canadiens assistant coach Luke Richardson said this week. “We need to make sure we supply him with enough support up front.”

While it’s true the Canadiens could offer more support for Price, they could use a timely save from him in this series. He has made some jaw-dropping stops here and there, but also has allowed 13 goals through three games — the same as the entire semifinal against Vegas — and has a pedestrian .835 save percentage.

Meanwhile, Andrei Vasilevskiy — who had a margin for error for a soft goal or two in Game 3 — has stopped 92 of 97 shots for a .948 save percentage. That has him in the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, which Price won as the best player in hockey six years ago.

“They need Carey Price to be on par with Andrei Vasilevskiy,” NBC Sports analyst Ed Olczyk said. “Up until now, Vaslievskiy has actually beat Carey Cost without concern.”

The huge concern entering into the last was whether Cost might take a video game or perhaps the series for Montreal. That’s what he performed in previous rounds to get the Canadiens to this point, and their design depends on getting the lead and leaning on the 33-year-old Cost.

The Canadiens have yet to lead in the last and Cost has yet to take a video game, much less put Montreal on track to win the series. After an intense, condensed 56-game routine season and now 20 championship game, this is not the Cost who controlled for Canada en route to the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics or the title at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Performances like that produced appreciation from Lightning coach Jon Cooper like: “Carey Price has a demeanor about him that it exudes confidence. And he has an ability to turn the page. He has an ability to play at big moments, and he’s grown into that.”

In the Cup Final, the most significant minute for the Canadiens, Cost has actually been among Montreal’s most significant weak points. And the Canadiens have little capability to come back in the series unless Cost rights his video game.

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Follow AP Hockey Author Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.