MONTREAL – After surviving the maelstrom of going through their worst start to a season in 70 years, the Montreal Canadiens find themselves in a playoff spot for the first time after a 4-0 win Wednesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
But that's not quite good enough for Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
"Obviously with the start that we had, we've battled really hard since then," said Price, who earned his first shutout of the season with a 25-save effort. "We don't want to stop at eighth place -- we want to keep climbing."
The Canadiens (8-7-3) bombarded Cam Ward with rubber and didn't allow the Hurricanes to get within the same area code of Price's net through the first half of the game, improved their record over their last 10 games to an impressive 7-2-1.
Price was relatively sharp for the 13th shutout of his career, but the Hurricanes (6-9-3) didn't do too much to make him earn it.
"It was definitely not the hardest one," Price said, "but kudos to the guys playing in front of me."
Halfway through the game, the Hurricanes had five shots on goal. It was hardly the kind of effort one would expect from a team looking to snap a slump that has now grown to six losses in seven games.
"If we keep losing, we're not going to be in the mix for the playoffs," said Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, wearing his frustration on his stern face. "We have to clear this up and get back to winning some games, because if you keep losing, you're going to be out of the picture before you know it and the season will be wasted."
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Carolina did find another gear in the third, outshooting Montreal 13-3, but Price turned all of them aside after facing just 12 shots over the first 40 minutes.
"We showed up part of the way into the second period and in the third period, but by that point they were less interested -- at least that's what it looked like to me," Staal said. "We got it going, but they were just sitting there waiting for the game to end. We didn't show up, we didn't play … we got what we deserved."
The Canadiens, meanwhile, were getting their chances in spite of having only one defenseman dressed – Josh Gorges – with more than two seasons of NHL experience under his belt.
P.K. Subban entered the game as the player with the most shots on goal in the League without a goal this season. He settled that on his first shot of the game, a blast from the slot that beat Ward to make it 3-0 at 6:13 of the second. It was Subban's 52nd shot of the season.
"My job is to play defense, so I'm not too worried about the offensive side of the game," Subban said. "I think that will come, but for me it's about playing solid. Especially if I'm going to be playing a lot of minutes when we have guys out of the lineup, the coach is going to be relying on me to play defense, so I can't be worrying about whether I'm scoring or not."
Finally, Travis Moen matched his goal total from all of last season with his sixth to make it 4-0 at 19:21 of the second period.
Ward made 32 saves for the Hurricanes, and while he may have wanted a mulligan on all of the Canadiens' goals, he was largely left to his own devices for almost the entire first half of the game.
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice did not hesitate when asked if he thought this was his team's worst effort of the season.
"We just didn't skate at all," he said. "I can give you a whole list of excuses, but nobody wants to hear them and you can't put any stock in them. We were just so damn slow we couldn't do anything."
Missing Jaroslav Spacek (upper body) and Hal Gill (illness), the Canadiens' defense had Subban as its second-most experienced player with 96 career games coming in. Following him were Weber (66), Raphael Diaz (17), Alexei Emelin (9) and Frederic St-Denis, who made his NHL debut.
"We knew they had a lot of regulars out of their lineup," Staal said. "But I don't think we touched the puck much in the first two periods. So it's hard to get in on their defense when you don't have the puck."
The Canadiens situation looks like it will remain unchanged for their game on Long Island against the Islanders on Thursday night, with coach Jacques Martin saying he expects none of his injured players to return.
He said it was "a possibility" that backup Peter Budaj would make his third start of the season in goal.
1 - 0 MTL
2 - 0 MTL
3 - 0 MTL
4 - 0 MTL
Too many men/ice - bench
Holding the stick