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Canadiens unimpressed by win streak to open season

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Rogers Arena fell eerily silent Monday when a trainer rushed to the side of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price while he lie facedown on the ice after a rising slap shot hit him in the throat.

A few moments later, after a brief, expletive-laced warning from coach Michel Therrien to keep the shots down, Price was back on his skates and in the net.

All was right again for the streaking Canadiens. Perfect, even.

Montreal is the first team in NHL history to start a season with nine straight wins in regulation, and with a victory against the slumping Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, the Canadiens would become one of three teams to start a season with 10 consecutive victories.

If the Canadiens are feeling the pressure of chasing history, you couldn't tell inside the locker room, where all dismissed their franchise-record start with the same disdain that Price swatted aside questions about the high shot that felled him in practice.

"It was a shot up high, I'm all right," Price said curtly.

Perhaps it comes from playing for hockey's oldest franchise in a city where streaks once were measured by Stanley Cup championships, but defenseman P.K. Subban was only slightly more forthcoming about the Canadiens' opportunity to join the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres as teams to start a season with 10 straight wins.

"We're not going to be the ones leading this type of parade," Subban said. "We're not really focused on going 10-for-10; we're just focused on the first shift of the game and executing the way we want to play. I've said it before and I'll say it again: All we've accomplished is to have a good start to the season, and that's it."

Throughout the Canadiens locker room, the quotes were similar.

Therrien insisted more than once he hasn't talked to his players about the streak, nor heard them talking about it.

Forward Dale Weise said it wouldn't mean any more to him to match the record against the Canucks, who traded him to the Canadiens in February 2014.

Vancouver native Brendan Gallagher didn't talk about celebrating his homecoming by matching the record, but he did mention the Canadiens striving to make improvements to their forecheck and defensive play after giving up too many shots the past two games.

For a team that has trailed 2:57 all season, no one was patting himself on the back.

"We haven't accomplished anything yet," Gallagher said.

Price echoed that sentiment, asking, "At the end of the day, who is really going to remember anyway?"

Price at least admitted it would be "cool" to tie the mark in front of family and friends back in British Columbia. A native of tiny Anahim Lake, an 11-hour drive north, he's always gotten up for games in Vancouver.

Early in his career, Price probably got up too much for games here. He admittedly was disappointed in February 2009 when he watched his first game back in Vancouver from the bench. He then gave up seven goals on 32 shots and was pulled from his first start at Rogers Arena, in October 2009.

"I was really amped up to come back and play," Price said. "I was obviously disappointed I didn't get the start the one game, and the one I got lit up I think I was a little bit too excited, so trying to be a little bit more melodramatic, I guess."

Since then, Price is 3-0-1 with a .951 save percentage in Vancouver. He has learned how to channel his excitement and focus instead on making one save at a time, something that also applies to dealing with the season-opening nine-game win streak.

"It's important I take the same approach to every game," said Price, who has a .961 save percentage in seven starts this season. "But I know there are going to be a lot of people watching back in Williams Lake and Anahim Lake, because they are all Canucks fans -- well some are anyway -- and it's always good to entertain them. It's cool, but like I said, our objective when we started the season wasn't to win 10 in a row either."

For all the dismissals out of the Montreal locker room, there was at least one Canucks player who could see real value in the Canadiens' start.

Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller was a big reason the Sabres won 10 straight to start the 2006-07 season, when Buffalo won the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top regular-season team before losing in the Eastern Conference Final.

"It set us up for the rest of the season," Miller said. "When you can put nine, 10 wins together, it makes you believe you can do a lot of things."

Miller and the Canucks are hoping to end the Canadiens' run, not to mention their own five-game losing streak on home ice to start this season (0-2-3). That goes double for forward Brendan Prust, who admitted after practice he was still "hurt a little" at being traded by Montreal in the offseason. After three seasons with the Canadiens, Prust knows better than most how much hype must be surrounding this nine-game winning streak, but he doesn't think it adds any pressure.

"After a start like that, I think it takes some pressure off," Prust said. "Fans are obviously crazy, and it's wild there I'm sure, but I don't worry about any of that. I just want to put an end to that winning streak."

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