MONTREAL - With a big round of cuts looming on Monday, two Montreal Canadiens rookies made a case for surviving at training camp a little longer.
Rookie Matt D'Agostini improved his chances of sticking in the NHL by scoring two goals, including the overtime winner, and Carey Price made 22 saves in his first start of the NHL pre-season to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 win Friday over the New York Islanders.
Though D'Agostini said scoring an overtime winner in an NHL environment is a memory he will cherish, he's not sure how much closer his two-goal performance got him to the NHL.
"Probably not very far," D'Agostini said. "If I'm playing again I need to come out with an even better performance. I scored two goals, but there are other parts of my game I need to work on. Hopefully I can do that and stick around here for a while."
The line of Tomas Plekanec, Guillaume Latendresse and D'Agostini was the strongest of the night for the Canadiens (2-2-0) and accounted for all their goals, with D'Agostini scoring two, Latendresse getting a goal and an assist and Plekanec picking up two assists.
Jeff Tambellini and Radek Martinek responded for the Islanders (1-1-2), who were missing Rick DiPietro, Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, Trent Hunter, Miroslav Satan and Brendan Witt, among others.
New York didn't make life very difficult for Price for much of the game, and Martinek's tying goal with just under six minutes to play in regulation was off a long, weak wrist shot. Price said afterwards that he didn't see the tying goal, and by the time he found the puck it was in the net.
"I felt all right about my game," said Price, the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft. "The guys helped me out a lot letting me see the puck and clearing away the garbage."
Price was beaten on two more occasions by long wrist shots, but Jamie Fraser and Ben Walter each hit the post. He has allowed five goals on 41 shots so far this pre-season.
"He made the saves when he had to," head coach Guy Carbonneau said. "That's what's important."
Incumbent Canadiens starter Cristobal Huet is slated to play the entire game Saturday night when Montreal hosts Ottawa, while last year's backup Jaroslav Halak should go the distance Sunday night against the Boston Bruins in Halifax.
Carbonneau said the Canadiens will make "just about all" of their cuts on Monday as the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs open their training camp Tuesday, and Montreal will play two more pre-season games next Thursday and Saturday.
Carbonneau added that Price will "probably" get another start this pre-season, suggesting he will likely survive Monday's cuts.
"I'm hoping for a lot more (starts)," Price said.
As far as D'Agostini, Carbonneau was encouraged by Friday's performance not only because of the two goals, but by how the rookie played without the puck.
"He has to be a reliable player and has to push someone away, that's why we have training camp," Carbonneau said. "He's not too far."
The Canadiens got on the board at 6:53 of the first period just as a power play was expiring. Plekanec sent the puck to Latendresse in the corner, who immediately sent it out front to D'Agostini for a tap in goal from the lip of the crease.
The Islanders tied it at 4:05 of the second when Chris Campoli worked a give and go with Josef Vasicek to come in alone on Price, who stopped his deke only to have Tambellini score on the rebound.
Latendresse gave Montreal a 2-1 lead at 14:27 when he converted a great feed from Plekanec off the rush for his first of the pre-season.
The Islanders tied it at 14:03 of the third when Vasicek won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Aaron Johnson, who fed Martinek on the opposite point for his long wrist shot that beat Price cleanly.
D'Agostini corralled a puck off the end boards and scored off an accurate shot to the top corner at 1:45 of overtime to give the Canadiens the win in front of an announced sellout crowd of 21,273.
Notes: Canadiens winger Chris Higgins, recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, still has not played in any of Montreal's four pre-season games. Head coach Guy Carbonneau announced that Higgins was given the green light Friday to suit up for Saturday's game against OttawaaMontreal's Ben Maxwell, a second round pick in 2006, played his first NHL pre-season game. He was crunched into the boards early in his first shift by Islanders winger Sean Bergenheima