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Gainey, players back their goaltender

by Shawn P. Roarke
MONTREAL -- Carey Price didn't feel much like the Montreal Canadiens' savior during Wednesday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins.

Price began his reign as the latest heir to the thrones of Montreal goaltending legends Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy last year when, as a rookie, he led Montreal to the Eastern Conference's best record and a first-round victory against these same Bruins.

At 20, he was the toast of the town after going 24-12-3 in the regular season. He got off to a hot start this season and was voted as the Eastern Conference starter for the All-Star Game at Montreal.

But none of that love was to be found Wednesday night. After Boston had ripped four shots past him in the game's first 33 minutes during an eventual 4-1 season-ending loss, Price was just toast to Canadiens' fans -- at least the 21,273 who turned up at the Bell Centre.

At one point, the fans showed their displeasure with Price's performance with a mock cheer when Price made a save shortly after Michael Ryder -- another former golden boy in Montreal -- had given the Bruins a 4-1 lead despite having just 16 shots in net..

A frustrated Price raised his hands in anger to acknowledge the crowd's taunts.

Afterward, GM/coach Bob Gainey backed his young goalie -- despite the fact that Price allowed 15 goals on just 123 shots in the series for a 4.11 goals-against average and an .878 save percentage.

"He could have kept his cool and not made any kind of gesture towards the crowd, but on the other hand, when you're being bullied, basically, if you don't stand up for yourself, who's going to?" said Gainey, who answered questions about his goaltending choice after every game of this series.

Price was not made available for comment, but his teammates eagerly jumped to his defense.

"Carey is only 21 years old and a good goalie and the future of this team," said Georges Laraque, Montreal's rugged forward. "We're going to win with him."

Chris Higgins, another forward, agreed.

"We had 100 percent faith in him," Higgins said. "The goalie is always going to face a lot of heat when the team does bad. In this city, you face a lot more than in others. It's a tough situation for him to be in, especially when we're losing and people start getting on him. It's really hard on him. He plays with his heart.”
Laraque was even more blunt, expressing anger not only at the mocking of Price, but also the chants of "Carbo" -- references to Guy Carbonneau, who was fired by Gainey as coach last month -- that began to make the rounds of the Bell Centre in the last five minutes of the game.

"To blame Carey like that, singularly, is very frustrating," Laraque said. "We have the best fans in the world because it's sold out every game; but best fans means they are proud of the team, whether you win or you lose.
"The best fans don't embarrass our coach, they don't embarrass our team, they don't embarrass the players, they don't embarrass the goalie. When you're a proud Montreal Canadiens fan, you bleed the Canadiens; you don't do stuff like that."
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