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Leafs Can’t Get Past Price, East-Leading Habs

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

MONTREAL (CP) – Manny Malhotra wasn't brought to Montreal to score goals, so the Canadiens knew it may take a while before he got one.

The veteran centre's time finally came five minutes into Montreal's 4-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Malhotra took a cleverly executed drop pass from Dale Weise and beat Jonathan Bernier for his first goal in 53 games as a Canadien.

"I waited long enough," the fourth-line faceoff ace said. "It's nice to contribute.

"It gets more and more frustrating as the games go by and you're not on the offensive side of things, but it came at a good time."

David Desharnais, with two, and Tomas Plekanec also scored for Montreal (41-16-5), which has won four games in a row and 14 of its last 19.

The Leafs (25-32-5) ended a two-game winning run despite outshooting Montreal 30-23.

"They only had 11 shots after two periods," said Leafs coach Peter Horachek. "We turned over that first goal, they had an empty-net goal and that third goal was clearly goalie interference.

"But there was some good compete there. We had some good opportunities."

Carey Price made 30 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and the 31st of his career.

"You get breaks throughout the game, and you play behind a team that's committed to blocking shots (19) and playing defence," Price said of the shutout. "I thought we played a pretty tight game."

After Malhotra scored, Bernier let in a soft one at 12:57 when, with the Canadiens up a skater on a delayed penalty call, Plekanec scored on a wrist shot to the short side.

Desharnais scored his 10th goal of the season and his 200th career point as he slid the puck in from a scramble in the crease in which Bernier looked to be bumped by Brendan Gallagher.

"Personally, it was one of the worst goals I've seen," said Bernier. "Gallagher pushed me in, and the goal was good. It's really frustrating. He's allowed to push me in if the puck is loose. Strange."

Horachek pulled Bernier for an extra attacker with nearly five minutes left to play but Desharnais flipped his second of the night into the empty net at 17:28 of the third.

Toronto native Devante Smith-Pelly, acquired this week from Anaheim, played his first home game as a Canadien and was impressed with the noise from the 21,287 at the Bell Centre.

"I think I'm going to like playing here," said Smith-Pelly, who will be back in Anaheim next week as the Canadiens go on a four-game west coast trip that starts Monday night in San Jose.

Montreal fans grew nervous as the Canadiens defencemen played the puck back to Price three times while killing penalties. It's a common move in soccer, but coach Michel Therrien said it definitely was not part of the game plan.

"When it works it's OK, but we'd rather go the other way than to have it come back into our end," he said.

It didn't faze Price, who turned over the puck after one pass back but cleared the other two easily.

"It's not Plan A, but if they're in a tough situation it's easiest just to bump it back to me," he said. "More often than not I'll make a decent play with it."

NOTES: P.A. Parenteau was cleared to return from a concussion but coach Michel Therrien made him a healthy scratch along with defenceman Mike Weaver. ... Defenceman Sergei Gonchar returned after missing six games with an upper-body injury suffered Feb. 14 against Toronto. ... The Leafs scratched Trevor Smith.

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