MONTREAL - Carey Price took the brunt of Montreal fans' frustration after the Canadiens were swept from the playoffs, but his coach and teammates were quick to jump to the defence of the young netminder.
The 21-year-old was booed, and each of his saves given mock cheers, by the Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 after the Boston Bruins took a 4-1 lead midway through the second period of Game 4 of their Eastern Conference playoff series on Wednesday night. The score stood up as the final result of the one-sided contest.
Late in the second period, he raised his arms to the crowd after they jeered a save on a dump-in, a gesture similar to one made in December 1995 by Hall of Famer Patrick Roy after he was booed during a shelling by the Detroit Red Wings.
Roy then went to the bench and told then-team president Ronald Corey that he had played his last game in Montreal. He was traded soon after to Colorado, where he won the Stanley Cup later that season.
Coach and general manager Bob Gainey warned that the same could happen to Price.
"I didn't say anything to him," said Gainey. "He reacted, but people were rude. People were unfair, so he stood up for himself. What's wrong with that?"
Gainey said that when he was GM in Dallas, the Stars picked up defenceman Darryl Sydor, who had been booed by fans in Los Angeles. He went on to help them win a Stanley Cup in 1999.
"Those obnoxious (people) in LA. booed him out of town," said a visibly angry Gainey. "We picked him up and the people in Dallas were pretty happy with him.
"The people here should watch what they do because teams may be waiting for a player you boo out of town."
Price was drafted fifth overall by Montreal in 2005. He led Canada to gold at the world junior championship in 2007 and later that same season helped Montreal's farm club, the Hamilton Bulldogs, to an AHL title.
His talent is evident and e had a strong rookie season a year ago, but crumbled in the second round of playoffs against Philadelphia. He also struggled through much of his sophomore campaign.
Price did not speak to the media after the game.
"I've said before, this kid is going to win a Stanley Cup one day," captain Saku Koivu said of Price. "Sometimes you have to put your emotions away and not show them, but that's part of the learning process.
"We've got to realize he's very young. He'll go through ups and downs in his career and he'll learn from them."
Enforcer Georges Laraque said the fans were wrong in their treatment of Price.
"We have the best fans in the league, but the way they reacted. . ." said Laraque. "Carey's only 21. If you're going to point fingers, point them at our injuries.
"It's hard enough to be swept at home and when you hear those boos - that's not the fans who supported us all year and helped us make the playoffs."
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas had advice on how Price should have handled the jeering.
"I realize the frustration, but I think you hold that inside and don't give them the satisfaction of giving them a response."