NEW YORK -- The Montreal Canadiens are used to Carey Price shutting the door and giving them a chance to win. What they're not used to is playing the type of tight-checking, grind-it-out, road-hockey game they played Thursday.
They'd like that style of play to become consistent, whether on the road or at home.
Max Pacioretty scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle with 4:17 left in the third period to provide the only offense Price needed in a 1-0 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Canadiens (31-13-3) have won four in a row and 14 of their past 18 games (14-3-1). Price is 12-2-1 with a .948 save percentage in that span.
The bigger story, though, was how much better the Canadiens played in front of Price on Thursday.
Price made 24 saves for his third shutout of the season and sixth in 17 appearances against the Rangers. Montreal came into the game having allowed 31 or more shots on goal in four straight games, seven of eight, and nine of 12.
"It was a big improvement," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "We were engaged in the game. We were pressing with and without the puck. By doing that you take a lot of time and space away from the other team. This is something we discussed before the game, that we've got to get back to the things we used to do, play a tight checking game. There's going to be some mistakes by both teams, and Carey [made] some great saves at the right time."
So did New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 25 saves, but Pacioretty's shot found a way to squeeze through his left arm and his body.
Pacioretty said he saw linemates Tomas Plekanec and Dale Weise driving toward the net, so he wanted to try to use Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh as a screen to hopefully surprise Lundqvist with the shot.
It worked, because Lundqvist said he didn't expect Pacioretty to shoot, and as a result he got caught too deep and wound up stuck near the post.
"There's no excuse, I have to expect him to shoot even though it's a weird angle or whatever," Lundqvist said. "I have to stop it. This is on me and it's a tough feeling. I feel I played really well. It was a tight game and right now we aren't scoring a lot so we can't afford mistakes like that. That's very disappointing."
The Rangers (27-15-4) lost back-to-back games in regulation for the second time since early December. They continue their four-game homestand Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"We are not far off," Lundqvist said. "We need a couple bounces here or there and it will be a different story. We aren't going to overthink it, just get ready for the next one and try to come back with a win here Saturday."
The Rangers had several chances to take the lead before Pacioretty scored.
Forward Martin St. Louis was close to giving New York the first goal twice; he hit the crossbar with a point shot at 13:18 of the second period and was robbed by Price at 6:21 of the third, when he tried to bat the rebound of center Derek Stepan's shot into the net from the slot.
"I just kind of reacted," Price said of that save, arguably his best of the night. "He batted it out of the air; I got a shoulder and an ear on it. I thought it went behind me so I spun around and it wound up underneath me."
New York center Derick Brassard was close to scoring with 6:07 remaining in the third period, but his shot off a rebound went wide left. He had an open net to shoot at with Price recovering from making the initial save on forward Rick Nash. Brassard reacted as if he was slashed on the hands, but there was no call from referee Steve Kozari, who was closest to the play.
Nash had a shorthanded breakaway 46 seconds into the third period, but he was disrupted by a pokecheck from Price.
"An inch there, an inch here and we might have been able to beat their goaltender," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "I thought our guys battled hard, but some nights it's like this."
There haven't been too many games this season when the Canadiens could say they supported Price as well as they did Thursday.
Price kept them in the game with some timely saves, but overall the Canadiens didn't give the Rangers much room through the neutral zone or in the attacking zone. The Rangers did much of the same to the Canadiens, but Montreal expected that and countered well.
"We're a meat-and-potatoes team; we're not a high-flying, open-ice kind of team," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "We want to play a tight game. We want to chip the puck in. We want to grind it out. We want to force other teams to make mistakes. Hockey is a game of mistakes and it usually comes down [to] the team that makes the least amount of mistakes, right? For us tonight [we] knew it was going to be a lucky bounce and I'm just happy we got it."
Lundqvist's best saves came late in the first period. He made a left-pad save on Weise's one-timer from below the right circle at 18:02, and a glove save on Pacioretty's wrist shot from the top of the left circle at 19:45.
The save on Weise was called into question during a stoppage at 18:38. The play went under video review in the NHL Situation Room to determine if Weise's shot completely crossed the goal line before hitting Lundqvist's pad. The review was inconclusive so the call on the ice stood.
"By some accounts it looked like it was in," Weise said.
Price made sure the review didn’t matter, but he got great support from his teammates. That's the formula the Canadiens have been searching for.
"These are the types of games you want to be able to win as a team," Price said. "I know it's fun to win a game 6-5, but if we want to be successful we're going to have to really bear down on those low-scoring, tight-checking games."