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Carey Price climbs Canadiens wins list

Goalie ties Ken Dryden for third with victory against Rangers

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

It was March 2007 when Carey Price was on the phone from northern Washington, the 19-year-old goaltender looking ahead to the final few regular-season games and upcoming playoffs for Tri-City of the Western Hockey League.

"When people have high expectations, there's obviously a lot of pressure on you and it's something you have to deal with," Price, who two years earlier had been selected by the Montreal Canadiens with the fifth pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, said that day. "Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante and a lot of legendary goalies have gone through Montreal. Those are big shoes to fill, but hopefully one day I can."

On Tuesday, against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in his 492nd career game, Price tied the legendary Dryden for third place on the Canadiens all-time wins list with his 258th victory.

"It's cool," Price said of tying Dryden following the 3-2 shootout win. "I'm sure (Dryden) probably did it in a little bit shorter time than I did, but yeah, it's a cool thing. It's another milestone. Gotta try to get that next one."

Video: MTL@NYR: Price dives for remarkable late save in OT

Indeed, it took Price 96 more games than Dryden needed to reach 258 wins. But keep in mind that the latter played on six Stanley Cup champions during his eight NHL seasons in the 1970s, the legendary Big Three of Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe on Montreal's blue line in front of him.

One more win puts Price into third by himself, 40 behind Roy, who won 289, and 55 behind the late Plante, the Canadiens leader with 314 victories.

A decade ago, Price, on the phone from the West Coast, was considering his future as the high-profile first-round selection of the Canadiens.

In January 2007, the native of northern British Columbia's Anahim Lake led Canada to the country's third consecutive World Junior Championship victory, earning most valuable player honors.

Three months later, Price signed his first professional contract with the Canadiens. Having finished his major-junior career, Price would sit on April 9 in the Pasco, Wash., home of Dennis and Jill Williams, his billet family, and read every word of the nine-page faxed document that he'd sign to make him a pro.

The ink on his three-year contract was barely dry when he headed to Hamilton of the America Hockey League, already thinking about his future NHL team's training camp five months away.

"Two bottles of water at the airport on my way (to Hamilton)," Price joked of his first dollars spent as a professional athlete. "Obviously, playing for the Canadiens is a goal of mine, and the sooner the better for me. Every year I come (to camp), I'm going to be trying to make it. My goal is to be on the team as soon as possible, whatever it takes to get there, I'm willing to do it."

Price made his pro debut for Hamilton on April 13, 2007 and was named first star for his 27-save performance against the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins.

He would play one more regular-season game, then 22 more in the Calder Cup playoffs, going 15-6 with a .936 save percentage and two shutouts to lead the Bulldogs to the AHL title, also winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs.

Price would arrive with the Canadiens that fall, sharing the workload with Cristobal Huet. His first NHL victory came Oct. 10, 2007, Price making 26 saves at the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-2 win.

Price has followed that up with 257 more victories, and along the way has surpassed the Canadiens win totals of nearly 90 men who have played in Montreal's net since the team's founding in 1909, eight years before the birth of the NHL.

Five of them are in the Hockey Hall of Fame: Bill Durnan, 208 wins; George Hainsworth, 167; Rogie Vachon, 110; Georges Vézina, 103, and Gump Worsley, 92. Plante, Roy and Dryden are also enshrined.

Video: MTL@NYR: Price pushes across to stone Nash's break

Price is now high on every Canadiens goaltending list. His 492 games played rank him third behind Plante's 556 and Roy's 551; his 38 shutouts have him behind Hainsworth's 75, Plante's 58 and Dryden's 46; and his career goals-against average of 2.43 ranks him seventh among those who played at least 100 games for the Canadiens.

Two seasons ago, Price blazed a trail never before seen in goaltending-rich Montreal, setting a franchise record with 44 regular-season victories. His 1.96 goals-against average and .933 save percentage both led the NHL.

Price made NHL history when he became the first goalie to win the Hart Trophy as the League's most valuable player, the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goalie, and the NHLPA's Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player, as voted by the players, all in the same season.

Last season was a disaster, a knee injury shelving him for all but a dozen games. He returned to action in September to spark Team Canada to the championship at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, going 4-0 with a .954 save percentage and 1.50 goals against average.

But 2016-17 with the Canadiens has been up and down, Price's consistently brilliant form of 2014-15 and the World Cup proving elusive. It has filled a forever angst-swollen fan base with fear and dread, the Canadiens relying heavily on his goaltending moving toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For a decade, Montreal fans have watched Price flourish and struggle and mature into a leadership role in the white-hot spotlight that is forever locked on the Canadiens goal crease.

Rewind to his professional debut in 2007 and there are two startling coincidences: Price's first game came in Pittsburgh, where Dryden played his first in the NHL, and it's where Roy made his first start 22 years to the day before Price's maiden game.

Then think back to the three legends that a junior-age goalie mentioned by name seven months before he played his first NHL game, and it's almost like the teenager had been doing his homework.

Now, having joined Dryden with a brilliant performance in New York, Roy is within reach and Plante is just a little farther down the road.

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