MONTREAL –Though he's only 24, Carey Price feels he waited a long time for his 100th career win.
A city full of panicked fans would agree with him.
Price made 21 saves to become the seventh-youngest goalie of all-time to reach the century mark in a 5-1 win Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers that also snapped a franchise-record five-game winless streak at home to start the season.
It was Price's sixth try at win No. 100, and he's relieved it -- and the losing streak -- is finally behind him.
"It took us seven games," Price said, just slightly exaggerating. "It took way too long."
Max Pacioretty, who was supposed to miss the game with a wrist injury but finally dressed, scored two goals and added an assist for the Canadiens (2-5-2), who despite the victory remain mired in their worst nine-game start to a season in 70 years.
"We need all the points we can get right now. We're still at the bottom looking up, so now we've got to worry about trying to collect as many points as we can every night and just climb that ladder."
The Flyers (5-3-1) were missing captain Chris Pronger, who suffered an eye injury Monday night, and it showed as the Philadelphia defense was unable to keep Montreal's fast, skilled forwards from penetrating their zone and creating chances and drawing penalties.
Ilya Bryzgalov may have only made 23 saves, but several of them came on extremely high quality chances when the outcome was still in question. It was Philadelphia's third loss in four games after starting the season by going 4-0-1.
"There's always got to be urgency, but especially now," said Flyers forward James Van Riemsdyk, who was foiled by Price on a breakaway to start the third that could have cut Philadelphia's deficit to one goal. "You don't want to get on one of these long losing streaks. That's the key to having a successful year so we have to bounce back tomorrow (at home against Winnipeg)."
A positive for Philadelphia was that Jaromir Jagr scored for a second straight game, giving him three goals and an assist in his past two contests.
Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier made the curious move of firing assistant coach Perry Pearn and announcing it to the players just 90 minutes before the start of the game.
"When things aren't going your way you have to shake things up," Pacioretty said. "We know a decision like that comes from management, so shaking things up might worry some of the guys and light a fire under them. Me personally, I knew that no one was messing around. We had to start winning hockey games or moves would be made."
Gauthier explained that, among other reasons, the message to the players was "that things need to change."
Well, they did.
The much-maligned power play -- which was Pearn's responsibility -- scored for a second straight game for the first time this season. Also, after hanging Price out to dry on far too many occasions this season, the Canadiens defensively insulated him the way they had grown accustomed to.
"I thought we did a lot of smart things," Price said. "We had a slow first period, but after that the guys played really well. We managed to find some offense and we played excellent defense."
But in spite of that improvement in limiting quality opposition chances, it was a spectacular Price save that completely turned this game.
With the Canadiens leading 2-1 just past the 12-minute mark of the second period , Flyers leading scorer Claude Giroux was left all alone in front of Price.
With the Canadiens goaltender moving the wrong way, Giroux tried to slide one in the back door, but Price got his pad out to make the stop.
Less than 30 seconds later, Pacioretty scored his first of the game by burying the rebound of a P.K. Subban shot. Instead of a tie game, it was 3-1 Canadiens.
"He played outstanding," Pacioretty said of Price. "I feel he's the best goalie in the League and tonight he played like it."
It may be a coincidence, but this was the first game Price returned to his regular equipment and mask after piling up an 0-3-2 record in pink-themed equipment that he will auction off for breast cancer research. Never one to be superstitious, Price said he had decided enough was enough and switched back to his regular equipment for the Flyers game.
However, after the game he admitted it was not entirely his decision.
"I don't want to say who, but it came from high up," Price said. "It was an executive decision from the team, I'll say that."
Pacioretty added his second of the night at 3:16 of the third period to make it 4-1, and the atmosphere in the Bell Centre -- tense and reserved for much of the first half of the game -- because joyous and festive for the first time this season.
By the time Michael Cammalleri made it 5-1 with 4:24 remaining, the relief in the building was palpable, and the chanting from the sellout crowd of 21,273 began. At the final horn, the crowd erupted and gave their team a standing ovation, a reflection of just how nervous this city was about the situation.
The Canadiens didn't get much time to enjoy the win -- they headed to Boston to play the rival Bruins on Thursday in the teams' first meeting since the Bruins' Game 7 overtime elimination of Montreal in the first round of the last playoffs.
"That's even more gloomy to be losing that many games then having to go to Boston," Price said. "It's just nice we can throw together a good game tonight and hopefully we can carry it into tomorrow."
Wrist shot -