MONTREAL -- Pat Burns barely knew Carey Price, other than what he saw on television and what he heard and said on his daily Montreal radio show over the past few years.
But once a coach, always a coach. Burns found a way to have a positive influence on Price all the same, and it's paying huge dividends for the Montreal Canadiens.
Price made 30 saves for his fourth shutout of the season - matching his total for the first three seasons of his career - as the Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 on Saturday night.
Just before the start of the season, Burns sent Price a message through Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller, and it had a big effect on the goalie who may have been the player that faced the most pressure in the League coming into the season.
"He's a special person," Price said of Burns, who passed away Friday after a long fight with cancer and was honored with a touching video tribute prior to the game. "He did a lot of great things in this League for both teams. He's definitely in all of our hearts. He left me a message before the season started, and it really touched me. He gave it to Kirk and Kirk gave it to me, so that was pretty special."
Is there any way Price would be willing to divulge what exactly Burns told him?
"No," he said, before pointing to his heart. "That'll always be here, with me."
Just how much of an impact that had on Price's start to the season may be debatable, but something has definitely gotten into embattled goaltender who had the monumental task of making a city of 3.5 million forget their playoff hero from last season, Jaroslav Halak.
So far, so good.
But Price is not letting any of it get to his head, constantly crediting his teammates for the wild success he's had this season.
"It's good defense and great team play, really. That's about all there is to it," Price said with a shrug. "When you see a shutout posted, that usually means the team played really well defensively."
It is that kind of answer that has coach Jacques Martin most impressed with Price this season.
"He has a good temperament," Martin said. "He doesn't get too excited about wins and he doesn't get too down after losses."
Those losses have been pretty rare as Price improved to 12-6-1, leaving him only one win shy of last season's victory total in 39 starts. But Saturday night's shutout was an even rarer event: It was the first time Montreal shut out Toronto at home since Nov. 12, 1977, a span of 62 games.
To mark the occasion, Scott Gomez got Price the game puck, just as did after last Tuesday's 3-0 shutout win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
And just as he did last time, Price took it and tossed it into the stands.
"That seems to be his thing," Price said. "I guess he's a little bit superstitious. I'm not."
Jeff Halpern scored shorthanded and Michael Cammalleri got one on he power play for the Canadiens (13-6-1), who defeated the Maple Leafs (7-9-3) in regulation for the first time in six tries. Toronto had come in on a relative high with two straight wins for the first time since opening the season with four consecutive victories.
Jonas Gustavsson did his best to keep the streak going with 36 saves, stopping wave after wave of odd-man rushes, but his teammates simply could not solve Price at the other en
The heavily-charged atmosphere among the crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre that is customary in this Original Six matchup was given an extra jolt by the video tribute to Burns.
Burns coached both these teams along with the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, and the Canadiens and Leafs appeared inspired to start things off.
"I thought it was done great," said Brian Gionta
, who won a Stanley Cup under Burns in New Jersey in 2003. "It showed all the parts of him, what he was all about. I thought it was pretty touching."
The pace of the opening 10 minutes was frenetic, with both teams getting good chances to score, but Montreal took over in the second half of the period and got the bulk of the scoring chances. If not for Gustavsson, the game could have been out of hand after 20 minutes -- but instead, the two teams retired to their respective dressing rooms in a scoreless draw.
The Maple Leafs' power play that had recently come to life cost them in this game, as their first one in the opening period saw the Canadiens get more chances than Toronto did. On the second one midway through the second, the Canadiens finally took the lead.
Halpern beat Mikhail Grabovski on a faceoff in the Leafs end and went straight to the net, where he tipped Jaroslav Spacek's point shot past Gustavsson at 9:17 to put Montreal ahead 1-0.
Halpern, a late-summer free agent signing by Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier, now has 5 goals in 20 games played. He had 9 goals in 71 games with the Kings and Lightning last season.
"I was lucky," Halpern said of latching on with the Habs in September, just days before the start of training camp. "It's only 20 games, but it's great to be a part of not just the city, but this particular group."
Cammalleri made it 2-0 at 7:55 of the third with a power-play goal off a turnover by former Hab defenseman Mike Komisarek
-- much to the delight of the home town fans who have been booing him ever since he left town as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2009.
Komisarek was in his corner when he spotted two teammates in front of his own net -- but his pass went right through them to Cammalleri on the other side. Cammalleri made no mistake with a one-timer past Gustavsson for his sixth of the season.
"It was a tough play, you're trying to get the puck to your guy in the middle and it gets through two guys," Komisarek said. "It was the right play, I just didn't execute it."