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Canadiens blank Rangers, off to their best start ever

by Sean Farrell

MONTREAL -- Thanks to goaltender Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens set a franchise record by winning their fifth consecutive game from the start of a season.

Price made 25 saves and the Canadiens defeated the New York Rangers 3-0 at Bell Centre on Thursday in their 98th NHL home opener. Montreal, which opened the season by sweeping four games on the road, had never started a season with five straight wins. The Canadiens opened 4-0-0 three times previously and went on to win the Stanley Cup each time. Montreal tied its fifth game in 1955-56 and 1977-78, and lost its fifth game in 1970-71.

"It's starting to reflect on our team," Price said. "We have a pretty confident group of guys here. We've always felt confident in our abilities and it's paying off."

Price, Norris Trophy finalist P.K. Subban and new captain Max Pacioretty were given the loudest ovations when the Canadiens were introduced individually prior to the game. Guy Carbonneau, captain of Montreal's most recent Stanley Cup-winning team in 1993, handed off the torch that began the pregame ceremony to Pacioretty, who credited his team's depth for their record-setting start.

"Everybody's pitching in, everybody's having fun and everyone feels good about themselves," Pacioretty said. "People ask me about leadership and how I feel about that; that's the biggest thing that I'm happy about right now, that everybody feels good about their game and everybody's got confidence right now."

The shutout was the 35th of Price's career and seventh in 18 regular-season games against the Rangers.

"Whenever you play a really good team, you know you have to bring your best effort to win," Price said. "Once again, the Rangers played very well. That's an excellent hockey club over there. We have a lot of respect for that team and their abilities. They probably feel the same about us. In the future, I'm sure there'll be a lot more great hockey games between our teams."

Tomas Fleischmann opened the scoring at 8:46 of the second period with his second goal in as many games. Dale Weise gave Montreal a two-goal lead at 17:55 of the third. Center David Desharnais assisted on each goal. Tomas Plekanec scored into an empty net with 36.3 seconds remaining.

Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves in his fifth consecutive start for New York, which has lost two in a row after starting 3-0-0.

"They schooled us," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "You have to give the Canadiens credit; they gave us a lesson in every area of the game."

Price, the reigning Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy winner, continued his mastery of the Rangers at Bell Centre, where he has shut out New York six times in his past 11 starts. The Rangers were shut out for the seventh time in their past 11 regular-season games in Montreal.

"I knew I couldn't give up too many goals to have a chance to win here," Lundqvist said. "I've kind of lost the count now of how many times we've been shut out in this building. It's a combination of how they play as a team, but obviously Price played a big part in that. For some reason, he likes to play us. But you just have to give him a lot of credit, the way he's been very consistent against us, especially in this building. I knew going into this game we all needed a really strong performance for us to have a chance to win, but it wasn't enough."

Price made two straight saves on shots by Rangers center Derek Stepan from the left side during a 1:41 two-man advantage for New York late in the second period. In all, Price made five saves during the Rangers' 5-on-3 power play after Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin flipped a rolling puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty at 16:32, 19 seconds after Montreal's Andrei Markov was called for hooking.

He also made a stellar glove save at 18:42 on a shot from the right side by Rangers forward Rick Nash.

Lundqvist flashed his glove to rob Alex Galchenyuk during a Montreal power play at 19:25 of the second. He also stopped Brian Flynn on a breakaway at 2:43 of the third, and Desharnais had a point-blank chance at 8:47, but Lundqvist gloved the Montreal center's shot to keep the Rangers within one.

"If it hadn't been for our goalie the score would have been much higher in their favor," Vigneault said.

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