Price stopped a consistent barrage of shots — 40 in all — to lead the Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the visiting Dallas Stars on Tuesday. The Habs, which extended their win streak to three games, were outshot 42-26.
Fresh off his all-star weekend, which included a delayed flight back home and the prospect of being grounded in Columbus, Price showed no sign of fatigue en route to his 25th victory of the season.
"No shocker. That's just Carey Price," said Manny Malhotra. "You almost don't get wowed by it anymore. It's just his norm. Hats off to him every night. He comes up with the saves you'd expect him to make, and every night he gives us a highlight reel saves that he has no business making. That's typical Carey Price.
"Carey tonight was the biggest star. You never see him get rattled, and that permeates through the team."
With a tight score from start to finish, the Anahim Lake, B.C., native made pivotal saves throughout the encounter to keep the Stars at bay. Price stopped 16 shots in the first period, another 16 in the second, and 10 in the third.
Up 2-1 in the second, Price made a great blocker save on Jamie Benn, who was all alone in front of goal after a defensive breakdown by the Habs. And after Brendan Gallagher scored the eventual winner early in the same frame, Price made five consecutive saves on a lengthy Stars power play — including 1:40 at 5-on-3 — to preserve Montreal's lead.
"It's what we've come to expect," said Gallagher. "He was unreal, save after save. There were a lot of times where it looked like they had pretty open nets, they were getting pretty good chances, and he was there to bail us out."
The only shots that beat Price were Benn's with less than three seconds remaining in the first period, and Patrick Eaves' midway through the second following an impressive individual effort by Tyler Seguin.
Just a few minutes after Price stoned Benn in front of goal in the second, Gallagher scored the winner on the power play at 4:37. Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen saved P.K. Subban's shot from the point before Gallagher jumped on the rebound and scooped the puck over the sprawled-out goaltender.
After struggling on the power play for much of the season, the Habs have breathed new life into their special teams. Montreal is 8-for-23 (35 per cent) with the man advantage in its last five games.
"We've gone back to a very simple power-play mindset: shooting the puck and having net-front traffic," said Gallagher. "We haven't changed too much. For the most part, we've gone back to simplifying it.
"It can't be pretty. Penalty killers are too good nowadays. You can't really make those tic-tac-toe goals. Those will happen every once in a while, but for the most part, most power-play goals are scored with traffic and on rebounds."
The Habs are 13-3-1 in their last 17 games since losing to the Stars in Dallas on Nov. 11.
Montreal (30-13-3) benefited from a fluke goal to open the scoring at 6:07 of the first period. Alexei Emelin's innocuous dump-in from the Dallas blue-line ricocheted off Stars forward Cody Eakin and bounced awkwardly toward the net. The puck then evaded defenceman Trevor Daley, redirected off an unsuspecting Lehtonen and crossed the goal-line for Emelin's second goal of the season.
"I was going to my post, getting ready for the puck to get to the corner," said Lehtonen, who stopped 23-of-26 shots in defeat. "It hit something, and came to the front. That was one of those goals where I need to be sharper and not assume what's going to happen with the puck. There are always weird bounces."
Alex Galchenyuk staked Montreal to a rare 2-0 first-period lead with an impressive play at 9:53. The 20-year-old cut back toward goal after streaking down the wing, escaped defenceman Jordie Benn's long reach and beat Lehtonen with a backhand, short side. It was the Habs' fifth shot on target.
Dallas (21-19-7) scored a crucial and somewhat controversial goal with less than three seconds on the clock in the first. After an intentional offside call against Subban, the faceoff moved down the ice to the right of Price. With 2.7 seconds remaining in the period, referees chased Malhotra — the league's most efficient faceoff-taker — from the faceoff circle.
Gallagher then lost the faceoff cleanly to Jason Spezza and the puck went straight to Benn, who beat Price and the buzzer to reduce the deficit. Price broke his stick on the frame of the goal in frustration.
After scoring in the first, Emelin was ejected from the game five minutes into the second period after hitting Spezza from behind into the boards. Montreal's Brandon Prust had taken an interference penalty 20 seconds earlier.
The Stars failed to score on the ensuing 5-on-3 man advantage, but Eaves did beat Price as time expired on the Emelin major, at 10:05 of the second, to put the Stars within one.
Seguin got an assist on the goal, his team-leading 53rd point of the year.
Dallas squandered an opportunity to tie the game late with another 5-on-3 power play, this time for 1:03.
"Another goalie has stolen the show," said Lehtonen. "It's frustrating. I have to do a better job, and our guys need to score when they have as many opportunities as that. It's as simple as that.
"I have to be better than the other goalie, and we'll have a better chance to win."
Winger Travis Moen was back at Bell Centre for the first time since being traded by the Canadiens to the Stars on Nov. 11. Moen went to Dallas in the transaction that sent Sergei Gonchar to Montreal. In the teams' first encounter of the year — a 4-1 victory for the Stars — Moen and Gonchar were kept off the scoreboard.
Christian Thomas, recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL on Sunday, played on the fourth line with Malhotra and Michael Bournival. After the game, the Canadiens also recalled forward Gabriel Dumont from the Bulldogs.
Notes: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau is still sidelined after sustaining a concussion on Jan. 15 versus the Ottawa Senators. … Former Hab Erik Cole (upper body) was not in the lineup. … Price and forward Jiri Sekac, who attended the all-star game last weekend in Columbus, did not practice with the Habs on Monday as their flight back home was delayed. ... Canadiens president and CEO Geoff Molson tweeted condolences to former Hab Mario Tremblay on behalf of the team Tuesday night following the death of Tremblay's wife, Colette.