MONTREAL – As the game came to a close and the Montreal Canadiens were celebrating a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Chris Pronger grabbed the game puck before making his way off the ice, just as he did in last season's Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez went to see Pronger just before he stepped off the ice to get the puck back and give it to their goalie, who had just earned his third shutout and 11th win of the season with a virtuoso 41-save performance.
Carey Price took the puck, skated near the Canadiens bench, and flung it in the stands.
No, Price is not a superstitious type, and he doesn't need that crutch to explain just how well he's playing right now.
"Oh really? That's what he did with it? Well, it's his puck to do what he wants with it," Gionta said. "I guess we'll know now not to fight to get him game pucks."
Price was outstanding again, climbing into a tie for the League-lead in wins and leaving the memories of last season's nightmarish experience further behind him as his 11 wins are only two short of the 13 he had in 39 starts all of last season.
"It's satisfying … our team's playing well," Price said. "It's definitely nice that we've started getting breaks going our way."
And that game puck?
"I didn't notice that," Price said of his teammates' effort to get him the memento.
"I gave it away anyway."
Gionta had a goal and two assists, Tomas Plekanec had a goal and an assist and Michael Cammalleri also scored for the Canadiens (12-5-1), who won their fourth straight to climb to within one point of the Flyers (12-5-2) in the Eastern Conference standings.
Plekanec, Gionta and Cammalleri – Montrea's top line – each extended their point streaks to five games.
"The production is there," said Gionta, who has 4 goals in his last 5 games after scoring just once in his first 13. "Earlier in the year, I thought my game was right there but the prediction wasn't. So I just tried to build off of that."
Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves in the Flyers net in the rookie's 10th straight start, suffering his first regulation loss over that span.
The Canadiens announced just before the game that star defenseman Andrei Markov would be out for a "prolonged" and "indefinite" period with a right knee injury. It was assumed the Canadiens recent success on the power play would come to an end without their quarterback, but it continued unabated with a 2-for-7 performance.
Montreal has gone 8-for-22 on the power play while winning the last four games after starting the year 3-for-47 over the first 14 games. Meanwhile, Montreal's penalty killing was a perfect 8-for-8 and has climbed into first in the NHL with a 90 per cent efficiency rating, going 41-for-44 over the last nine games.
"It's clicking, but we have to stay on it," said Canadiens winger Travis Moen.
"There are good power plays out there, and if we take our foot off the gas it'll hurt you."
The Flyers came into the game having scored the game's first goal five straight times, but they allowed Montreal to open the scoring when Cammalleri converted on a laser one-timer from the slot during a 5-on-3 power play at 9:36 of the first.
The win improved Montreal’s record to 10-0-1 this season when scoring first.
The Flyers, coming off a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at home Monday night, had a bit of a sluggish start to the game but poured it on it in the second period. They fired 20 shots at Price but couldn't beat him as he made difficult saves look easy and smothered rebounds to limit the Flyers to one chance at a time.
"I don't think it was our best game in the last 10 games, but it's frustrating when you can't get one by the goalie," Flyers winger Scott Hartnell said. "It was a physical game and it's nice we play these guys next week, too."
Meanwhile, the Canadiens converted on one of their eight shots over the middle period when Plekanec came down on a 2-on-1 with Moen, looked at the latter the whole way and fired a no-look shot through Bobrovsky's legs for his seventh goal of the season at 13:48.
The Flyers did not come out with the same fire for the third, getting their first shot on Price midway through the final period.
The Canadiens made it 3-0 on another power play at 6:24 of the third when Gionta wheeled behind the net and threw the puck in front to Cammalleri, only to have it bounce in off the skate of Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen.
The game degenerated into a series of skirmishes in the third period, setting up the re-match in Philadelphia on Monday.
"We're already pretty excited for that game," said the Flyers' scoring leader Claude Giroux, who got into one of those confrontations with Montreal rookie P.K. Subban in the third period.
The Canadiens were also upset over what happened to center Jeff Halpern early in the third period, when he had his head driven into the glass on an un-penalized hit by Darroll Powe.
"It was a hit from behind," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "Unfortunately, the referee didn't see it that way."
1 - 0 MTL
2 - 0 MTL
3 - 0 MTL
Delaying Game - Puck over glass
James van Riemsdyk
Interference - Goalkeeper