Craig Anderson may be the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy had he not missed extended time in the regular season due to injury, though the Ottawa Senators are more than happy he's around for the playoffs.
After a stellar performance helped Ottawa steal home-ice advantage, Anderson leads his team into Game 2 of its Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Friday night against the Montreal Canadiens, who will be without Lars Eller after he was the recipient of a brutal hit in Game 1.
Montreal set a team record for a regulation playoff game by putting 50 shots on goal, but Anderson stopped 48 in a 4-2 victory Thursday. It marked the fifth time in his career Anderson made at least 48 saves and second time in the playoffs.
"What can you say? Andy's our MVP," defenseman Marc Methot said. "He's a machine back there. He just keeps going and going. We're lucky to have him in the net."
Anderson was 8-4-2 with a 1.49 goals-against average when he suffered a sprained right ankle against the New York Rangers on Feb. 21 that kept him sidelined until April 7. He finished with an NHL-best 1.69 GAA, but his injury could keep him from winning any major awards.
Anderson has stopped 109 of 114 shots in three games this season versus Montreal. The Senators trailed 2-1 entering the third period Thursday, but Anderson turned away nine shots.
"You just have to give your team an opportunity to stay in the game and win," Anderson said. "We went from having no momentum in the second and taking momentum back in the third."
Methot, Jakob Silfverberg and Erik Karlsson - playing in his fourth game since returning from a torn Achilles - each had a goal and an assist for the sixth-seeded Senators, who are hoping for a better postseason result after falling in seven games to the Rangers in last year's first round.
Ottawa, though, will be without defenseman Eric Gryba after he received a five-minute interference penalty and game misconduct for an open-ice hit Thursday that left Eller bleeding before he was taken off on a stretcher.
Gryba was suspended two games Friday for the hit as Eller suffered a concussion, plus facial and dental fractures as he reached for a pass from Raphael Diaz.
"I stepped up to make a hit. I kept my shoulder down. He received the puck by the time I hit him," Gryba said. "I saw the replay. My elbow was down and there was no intent to hurt him whatsoever and I hope that he's OK. I'm not out here to hurt anybody and it's never good to seeing anything like that.
"I hope he makes a full and speedy recovery."
Montreal coach Michel Therrien decided to leave the subject alone.
"I can't comment," he said.
The third-seeded Canadiens, who got goals from Rene Bourque and Brendan Gallagher, have lost four of five at home dating to the regular season. They've also dropped four of their last five home playoff contests.
"We played a good game and we deserved a better result," Therrien said. "I'm proud of our team. But the story of the game was Anderson. He was extraordinary."
Carey Price, who went 2-6-0 with a 4.18 GAA over his last eight regular-season appearances, made 27 saves in Game 1. Price entered this series 3-12-0 with a 3.16 GAA in his last 15 playoff starts.
The Canadiens had won four straight home games versus Ottawa.