PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Carey Price's inconsistent series could land him on Montreal's bench.
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau declined to announce his starting goaltender for the pivotal Game 4 against Philadelphia on Wednesday night. The Flyers lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-1.
Price was replaced by Jaroslav Halak after allowing three goals on 12 shots in a 3-2 loss Monday night. The 20-year-old rookie has an .853 save percentage in the last three games, but was outstanding in the regular season and in a first-round victory over Boston.
"Obviously (Price) was upset with everything that happened," Carbonneau said Tuesday. "But there is nothing after the game that you can do. The worst you can do is be mad for four days. You have to be able to forget in this business. Sometimes it's hard, but that's the only way to do it."
The first goal Price allowed in Game 3 wasn't really his fault. There was quite a bit of traffic in front when Scottie Upshall fired a wrister through to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the second period.
But Price should have stopped Mike Richards' short-handed goal that made it 2-0. The puck was in his glove, trickled out and hit the inside of the post before going in.
Price then gave up a rebound, allowing R.J. Umberger to score the decisive goal.
If Price does get the start, he needs to step up his performance to have any chance at becoming the third rookie goalie - Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy were the others - to lead the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup title.
"I feel fine," Price said. "Eventually it's going to change. I still feel confident, though. We carried most of the play for two periods."
Price sounded like someone who expects to be in net, trying to help the Canadiens avoid facing elimination when they return home.
"He (Carbonneau) told me to just hang in there," Price said. "I've been through a playoff series before. We're one game away from turning it right around. What can you do? The pucks have eyes. Sometimes they hit the ice and bounce straight up in the air. Sometimes it doesn't go your way."
Price is used to pressure. He was named the outstanding player of the 2007 world junior championship after leading Canada to gold, and led Hamilton to the AHL title last spring.
When veteran goalie Cristobal Huet was dealt to Washington at the trade deadline, Price took over as the No. 1 goalie and helped the Canadiens finish atop the conference standings. He was 24-12-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in 41 games.
"I've had the chance to play with a bunch of great goalies in my career and I think Carey will be among that group, but he is 20 years old," Carbonneau said. "He's learning. He has to accelerate that with the fact that he's our No. 1, but I think he has done a good job and I'm sure he will be back."
Across the ice, there's no goalie controversy for sure.
Martin Biron has been downright sensational for the Flyers in his second playoff series as a starter. Biron stopped 32 shots in Game 3, and has a .923 save percentage in the series.
"He has been amazing, especially the past two games," center Danny Briere said of his longtime teammate.
The Flyers could get an offensive lift from right wing Mike Knuble, who might play for the first time since he sustained a partial tear of his left hamstring in the fifth game of the first-round series against Washington.
"The guys are playing well," Knuble said. "You just want to come in and try not to mess up what's going on. Do something to help."
Knuble's return presents Flyers coach John Stevens with a dilemma. He'll have to sit one of his forwards, possibly rookie Steve Downie, and juggle his lines. Umberger filled in for Knuble on a line with Upshall and Jeff Carter.
"That line of Knuble, Carter, Upshall has been really strong, going back to the regular season and through the playoffs," Stevens said. "I feel bad for R.J. He doesn't really have a home on a line. That's what makes him such a valuable player. Whether he plays with Richards or somewhere else, I think you will see good things from him."