Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price lost to the New York Islanders on Friday night, but nothing could dampen the positive vibes around the Bell Center as the franchise star played his first NHL game since July 7, 2021.
Price made 17 saves in the 3-0 loss to the Islanders in a two-team battle out of the playoff draw.
“It’s definitely been a trying season, for me personally and for the team. I didn’t feel quite normal, but pretty close,” Price said after the game.
Price, 34, hasn’t played in an NHL game since Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, when Montreal was eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The following months were tumultuous for Price. He underwent off-season knee surgery. He waived his no-move clause for not being protected in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft – the idea being that his massive contract would deter Seattle from selecting him, and he was not taken. On October 7, Price voluntarily enrolled in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program for what he said was drug addiction.
“Over the past few years I’ve let myself go to a very dark place and I didn’t have the tools to deal with that struggle,” Price said at the time.
Price returned to the Canadiens at the end of 2021, but his path back suffered several setbacks, including a longer-than-expected recovery from his surgery and a non-COVID-related illness that put him out of action.
“It’s been a lot of hard work. Not only by myself, but also by the coaching staff,” Price said.
His return to the Canadian compound was well received by his teammates.
“I’m incredibly happy that he was able to play tonight. Finally get in on the action. He’s an integral part of our team, and it’s been tough here for him,” said Montreal winger Paul Byron. “He’s a quiet guy. He has a calm, passive demeanor. But I know what it meant to him and what it meant to his family.”
Price’s family was on hand for his return to the NHL, and he greeted him during warm-ups, including his one-year-old son Lincoln, who was watching his father play in person for the first time.
“I think he was a bit put off by [my] mask and gear,” Price joked. “It allowed me to stay free. I kept things in perspective.”
The little moments were heightened throughout the game for Price. He received a standing ovation when his name was announced as the starting goaltender.
“It was a lot of fun. It was heartwarming. It made me feel, I guess, wanted,” he said.
Price made his first save after 3 minutes and 32 seconds on a shot from Kyle Palmieri of the Islanders. The crowd roared in recognition of the moment. After the final buzzer, the Canadians skated in to personally congratulate Price, as they would after a win. The remaining fans at the Bell Center gave Price another standing ovation, and he raised his stick in appreciation.
This is Price’s 15th season in the NHL. He has a career record of 360-257-79 in 707 games, all with the Canadiens. Price won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player and the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in 2014-15.
Price is signed for the 2025-26 season with an average annual contract value of $10.5 million. It was a tough season for the Canadiens, who followed their path to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 20-44-11 season, for the last Eastern Conference spot.
Price said it was difficult for him not being able to help his teammates.
“I missed that a lot. Any athlete will tell you that when you’re on the sidelines injured, you’re part of the team, but you’re not part of the process,” he said. “It’s not easy not to be part of the solution.”
The Canadiens have seven games left in their season.