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Price leads Habs past Blackhawks

Wednesday, 04.01.2009 / 12:32 AM / Game of the Night

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

Carey Price may have found his game just in time to get the Montreal Canadiens into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Price, who has struggled for much of the 2008-09 season, made 28 saves on Tuesday night in the Habs' 4-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bell Centre. With the victory, Price and his teammates improved to 3-0-1 in their last four games.

"I think it was his best complete game in some time," said Montreal coach and GM Bob Gainey, who made Price the team's No. 1 goalie last season when he sent Cristobal Huet to Washington at the trade deadline.

Huet signed with Chicago as a free agent last summer, and the former teammates found themselves playing against each other in a big game for both teams. Price came within 7:42 of recording his first shutout in more than four months before Patrick Sharp got his 26th goal.

"It was a pretty sad day for me when he got traded," Price said of Huet. "He was like an older brother to me.

"He was always that guy that I could look up to. He was always there for advice, and if I was going through a rough time, he was there to help me out of it. He was everything I needed out of a partner and a veteran guy."

The victory kept Montreal in eighth place in the Eastern Conference; with 88 points, one in front of the Florida Panthers, who beat Ottawa 5-2.

Alex Kovalev needed only 25 seconds to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games. He got his 23rd of the season when he beat Huet with Montreal's first shot as the Canadiens took advantage of Duncan Keith's blind backpass behind his net.

Kovalev has scored five times during his streak.

"I think Dunc was expecting Kovalev to come on the other side, and just reversed the play. Kovy made a good read on it," said Huet, who stopped 29 shots in his first start in two weeks.

Guillaume Latendresse gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead when he scored his 13th goal of the season at 6:12 of the second period. The Habs' forward shot his own rebound off Huet and the puck flipped high in the air before sailing over the goal line.

Andrei Markov made it 3-0 on a power-play goal with 4:08 remaining in the second. After Brian Campbell was called for interference, Markov took a pass from Saku Koivu and ripped a shot past Huet for his 11th of the season.

Sharp ruined Price's shutout bid with an even-strength tally at 12:18 of the third, but Mathieu Schneider restored Montreal's three-goal lead when he beat Huet on a power play with 3:17 to go. The Canadiens went 2-for-4 with the man advantage, while the Blackhawks went 0-for-6.

Chicago fell to fifth in the West with 91 points -- the first time they've been out of the top four in the West since early in the season.

"If we play hard and we go out there and win games and fight as a team, the standings take care of itself," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "Obviously, there are things we can't control. We had a tough loss against Vancouver the other night and now we don't play them again, so whatever happens away from where we are is out of our control. We've just got to focus on what we can do out there."



Sergei Kostitsyn left the game with an upper-body injury in the first period and didn't return. Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik suffered a similar injury in the second and was also sidelined for the remainder of the game. It is unknown whether either player will be able to play Thursday night, when the Habs visit the New York Islanders.

"I think (Wednesday) we'll have a better idea of whether they'll be practicing or traveling with the team," Gainey said.

Material from wire services was used in this report.


Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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