MONTREAL - Carey Price is doing a fine job impressing his teammates.
Price stopped 34-of-35 shots as the Montreal Canadiens beat the visiting New York Rangers 3-1 Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens netminder has given up just four goals in his last three starts while stopping 93 shots — good for a .959 save percentage. Last Saturday, Price frustrated the Colorado Avalanche with a 32-save performance, and he limited the Detroit Red Wings to one goal on 28 shots on Tuesday.
"He's playing unbelievably," said Max Pacioretty, who had a goal and an assist in Montreal's Conference-best seventh win of the season. "When you see him lead the way like that, it obviously gives us confidence and gives us motivation. It seems like we've been talking about the same thing for at least two years.
"It really is an honour to have a guy like that kicking for you."
With the score knotted at 1-1 midway through the second period, Price stoned New York's Derick Brassard as he rushed out of the penalty box. Montreal's Lars Eller scored the go-ahead goal just seconds later.
At 11:14 of the third, Price made back-to-back saves on Martin St. Louis and John Moore to preserve Montreal's two-goal lead. And with 90 seconds remaining on the clock, Price made a dramatic pad save on Dan Girardi to kill any hope of a New York comeback.
"He's playing like one of the top goalies in the league," said Montreal head coach Michel Therrien. "And tonight was no different.
"He's calm. He's a good leader for us. He gives us the confidence to attack every game with a chance to win."
Added Eller: "He's playing like Carey Price. He spreads confidence to the defenders. He makes it look really easy. We're fortunate to have him back there."
The only blemish on the night for Price was conceding a game-tying goal at 17:07 of the first period. With the Habs up 1-0, Price made a pad save on Girardi's shot from the point, but kicked the puck right to a wide-open Carl Hagelin.
The Rangers (4-4), however, wouldn't add another past Montreal in the teams' first meeting since New York knocked the Canadiens out of last year's Eastern Conference final in six games. The first game of that series also saw Ranger Chris Kreider injure Price for the remainder of the playoffs.
The Habs (7-1-0) got a bit of revenge for their post-season exit on Saturday night, as Therrien's men halted New York's three-game winning streak. Montreal is now 8-2-0 in their last 10 regular season games against the Rangers.
"We're a confident hockey club, we enjoy putting the work in, and we stick up for each other," said Price. "We're not trying to do anything special, we're just trying to have fun and get the job done."
Montreal, still undefeated at home so far this year (4-0), secured two points when Eller got his stick on a loose puck in front of the net and slotted it home between Henrik Lundqvist's pads. The Swede, who frustrated the Canadiens for much of last year's intense playoff series, stopped 27-of-30 shots in defeat.
"You have to go to the net, and we did that very well tonight," said Eller, who scored his first of the season. "Sooner or later it's going to go in. A lot of the times, you don't score too many pretty goals anymore."
After possibly the team's best start to a game this season, Tomas Plekanec scored a pretty goal in the first period for Montreal on a shorthanded, two-man breakaway.
With Manny Malhotra in the box for holding, Plekanec capitalized on a New York mistake at the blue-line, poking the puck past an overly aggressive Ryan McDonagh along the boards. With all five Rangers in the offensive zone and acres of space in front of them, Plekanec and Pacioretty fooled Lundqvist with four quick passes before the Czech fired home his team-leading fifth of the season.
"A 2-on-0 like that, it's a little less nerve racking than a breakaway," said Pacioretty. "I was happy to give it over to Plecky. We all have confidence in each other right now, and that play kind of showed it. It sucked the momentum out of them."
With the goal, Plekanec tied Habs legend Yvon Lambert for 27th on Montreal's all-time scoring list.
After Eller put the Canadiens in front at 11:46 of the second, Pacioretty added a third for Montreal at 6:35 of the final period when Dale Weise, from behind the net, found the left-winger all alone in the slot. The assist was Weise's second of the game - his first two points of the season.
"We had a push in the third, but obviously it wasn't good enough," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. "We weren't good enough in front of their net. We just couldn't capitalize on those second chances in front of Price."
In just his sixth NHL game, Montreal-born rookie Anthony Duclair finished with one assist and three shots. The 19-year-old winger, whose friends and family were in the stands, now has four assists this season. He was named third star of the game.
Prior to puck drop, fans at the Bell Centre observed a moment of silence to honour Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, two Canadian soldiers who were killed in separate attacks this week in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
Notes: The game was Therrien's 600th as an NHL head coach. … Jiri Sekac was not in the lineup for the Canadiens, as the youngster sat for the second consecutive match. … The Habs managed to contain the high-flying Rick Nash, who has scored eight of New York's 22 goals. Nash was kept to just one shot in 15:57 of work. … Montreal embarks on a three-game Western road trip, with games against the Oilers, Flames, and Canucks next week.