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Canadiens stay perfect by defeating Maple Leafs

by Sean Farrell

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens are still perfect.

P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty each had a goal and an assist, Carey Price made a season-high 49 saves and the unbeaten Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on Saturday at Bell Centre for their ninth consecutive victory.

Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher also scored for Montreal. All nine of the Canadiens' wins have come in regulation, breaking the NHL record for most consecutive regulation wins at the start of a season they shared with the 1975-76 Buffalo Sabres.

"A lot of things have gone right," Price said. "We've gotten the right bounce at the right time, guys have been working as a unit, and we're just playing pretty solid hockey right now."

The Canadiens, who won 7-2 at Buffalo on Friday, are the only team without a loss of any kind. They are one victory short of the League record for the longest winning streak to start a season, a mark set by the 1993-94 Maple Leafs and matched by 2006-07 Sabres. Toronto had one overtime victory during its streak, and three of the Sabres' 10 wins came in shootouts.

"It's nice, but we feel like our game the past few games has maybe been slipping a little bit and we've got to get back on track with dominating the possession game," Pacioretty said. "I think 52 shots is too just too much, and we relied on Carey way too much, and that's a bad feeling for the guys. Obviously you don't want to get too spoiled. It's two points. We found ways to put pucks in the net but we would have liked to play the last two games a little bit more in the opposition zone and we look forward to doing that hopefully next game."

Montreal can tie the record with a victory at the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

"Our goal is not to break any records. Our goal is to win a Stanley Cup, so I think we're going to save the feather for another day, or the champagne, or whatever it is that everybody expects us to do," Subban said. "Our focus is to try and make the playoffs and then move forward from there. I know as a team we're not satisfied with where we're at right now.

"Personally, all I think we've accomplished is a good start, that's really all it is. There's a lot of hockey left to be played, so everybody's going to be talking about a lot of things over the next couple of days, and that's fine, but for our team it's just about the next game and getting prepared to play our best game."

Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk each had a goal and an assist, and Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto (1-4-2), which has lost eight in a row to Montreal.

"You've got to give them credit, they came out hard," Subban said. "They knew we were maybe going to be a little bit tired and they pushed the pace. They did exactly what any team would want to do going into a building on a team that's played back to back games, so they executed well but we've got Carey Price in net and he gave us an opportunity to win the game, and it seemed that we were able to get some offense going, too."

Jonathan Bernier, who made 22 saves, fell to 1-7-3 in 11 games against the Canadiens.

"Obviously a shorthanded goal against, I didn't like," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said of Pacioretty's goal, which made it 4-2 at 15:30 of the second period. "I didn't like their second goal. We got out of position on their power play but to me a couple of decisions we made at their blue line too cost us, and obviously you can't give up five and win in the League, and their goalie was outstanding."

Pacioretty scored Montreal's first shorthanded goal of the season to give the Canadiens their third two-goal lead of the period, which saw Toronto end with a 23-11 advantage in shots on goal. Gallagher made it 5-2 with 13.8 seconds left in the period when he tipped Subban's slap pass into the net from the left edge of the crease. It was his third goal in two nights and the Canadiens' second power-play goal of the game.

The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead at 10:53 of the first when Subban drove a power-play slap shot through Bernier for his first goal of the season.

Montreal, which scored four of the six goals in the second, twice took a two-goal lead only to have Toronto close within one during a stretch in which the teams combined for four goals within 4:42.

Eller put the Canadiens up 2-0 with his third at 1:54 before Komarov fired a rebound past price at 2:37 for his fourth of the season to draw Toronto within 2-1.

Desharnais put Montreal up 3-1 when he got credit for his second goal at 4:24. He put a backhand pass into the slot that hit the stick and skate of Maple Leafs forward Michael Grabner before sliding past Bernier and into the net.

Van Riemsdyk's third goal of the season at 6:36 cut the Canadiens' lead to 3-2. But Pacioretty scored his seventh at 15:30, an unassisted goal on a shot from the left side with Eller off for high-sticking.

The Maple Leafs had a two-man advantage for 55 seconds after Montreal's Devante Smith-Pelly was called for slashing at 15:41. Price made a save with the tip of his right pad on a Dion Phaneuf drive just after Eller's penalty expired, then gloved a shot by Komarov before the end of the second power play.

"[Price] made some big saves on the 5-on-3, whatever you want to say, momentum saves, game-changers, he was solid, and when we get that opportunity, it's our job to get one," Phaneuf said. "I thought we generated a lot, but generating doesn't count, you've got to find a way, but also, we hit how many posts? So that's not an excuse, it's reality. I thought we generated a lot but we'll come back to work [Sunday], head up, and get back to it."

Rielly's goal at 7:11 of the third period marked the first time Montreal has allowed more than two goals in a game. The Canadiens have outscored their opponents 14-2 in the third period and 35-12 overall.

Montreal has trailed once this season, for 2:57 in the second period of a 4-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 17.

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