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Habs' Price blanks Pens in Pittsburgh

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- Consol Energy Center, Mellon Arena … doesn't matter. If the Pittsburgh Penguins are playing there, they're selling out.

If Mike Cammalleri is playing there, he's scoring a goal.

Cammalleri had a goal, set up another and the Montreal Canadiens got on the scoreboard in the opening minute during each of the first two periods in their 3-0 victory against Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

The Penguins played before their franchise-record 200th consecutive home sellout crowd, including all 35 games at their new facility, but mounted little offense while losing to Montreal there for the second time this season.

With Carey Price making 26 saves, the Canadiens closed out a demanding and emotional week in which they lost forward Max Pacioretty indefinitely with a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra sustained following a hard hit by Zdeno Chara of Boston on Tuesday.

The Canadiens, angered and upset with Pacioretty's injury, then lost 4-1 to St. Louis on Thursday, but rebounded with a strong two-way performance against Pittsburgh, which was coming off victories over Boston and Buffalo. Montreal won its sixth in seven games and took the season series from Pittsburgh 3-1.

If there was any letdown against the Blues – and, several Canadiens said there was – it didn't last.

"Maybe there was a little bit of overlay of some emotions and stuff like that – it was an emotional period for a couple of days there, (with) a friend and teammate," Cammalleri said. "That might have had something to do with it, but this was more of a focused effort."

As usual, Cammalleri was in the middle of it. Not long after Dustin Jeffrey's shot struck a goalpost 17 seconds into the game, Cammalleri skated around the outer edge of the right circle before setting up Tomas Plekanec in front for a backhander with 46 seconds gone. Plekanec helped create his own goal by winning a faceoff from Jordan Staal.

After Travis Moen scored his first career goal against the Penguins 24 seconds into the second period, Cammalleri got his 16th of the season – and third in two games in Pittsburgh this season – at 6:51 of the second. Jeff Halpern patiently waited for Cammalleri to get open in front before hitting him with a perfectly placed centering pass.

That goal, the third on 12 shots against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, caused Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma to pull Fleury for Brent Johnson, who is expected to start Sunday against Edmonton. Fleury is 13-12-1 against his hometown Canadiens.

"I didn't like where our team was at that point. We'd given them some golden opportunities and they didn't work too hard for them," Bylsma said. "I wanted an opportunity to try to shake our team up with a change."

While Moen scored for the first time since Dec. 10 against Detroit after being reunited on a line with captain Brian Gionta and Gomez, much of the Canadiens' recent success against Pittsburgh is due to Cammalleri.

Cammalleri has eight goals in his last six games in Pittsburgh, a span encompassing two arenas, while scoring at least once in every game. He had five goals in four games there as Montreal upset Pittsburgh in a seven-round Eastern Conference playoff series last spring, then scored two more goals as Montreal won 3-2 on Oct. 9 in the Penguins' second game in Consol.

Cammalleri scored seven goals in that playoff series.

"They were the defending Cup champs last year," Cammalleri said. "I've got a lot of respect for the kind of the way they play and some of the people on their team. So maybe it brings out the best in you."

Price did the rest Saturday in his League-leading 33rd victory, making 26 saves as he allowed two goals or fewer for the seventh time in eight games. Montreal closed to within two points of idle Boston, 85-83, in the Northeast Division race and is 17-16-1 on the road.

"We kept most of their chances to the outside and when we're doing that, it makes life a lot easier than when you're kicking them out to the middle," Price said. "Anything I left there, our guys were all over it."

Price made a strong save on James Neal, who shot from in close along the right side of the crease not long after Moen's goal. Neal also shot wide later in the period. Price's shutout was his eighth of the season and the 12th of his career.

"He's given us a chance to win every night," coach Jacques Martin said.

Pittsburgh was 0-for-3 on the power play and is 1-for-31 in its last 10 games.

"I don't think that was very well executed game or one in which we were able to get into the game," said Bylsma, whose team didn't get any lift from a second-period fight between Max Talbot and Paul Mara.  "That was evident with the way we executed."

The Penguins fell to 9-8-4 without stars Sidney Crosby (concussion, out indefinitely) and Evgeni Malkin (knee surgery, out for the season).

Pittsburgh's 200-game shutout streak dates to Feb. 14, 2007 and includes 171 regular-season games and 29 playoff contests. It will be stretched to 201 games Sunday.

"We have to come more focused, more prepared and ready to make a play," Penguins forward Matt Cooke said.

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