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Price bears brunt of Habs' future hopes @NHLdotcom

BROSSARD, Quebec (AP) -Carey Price deliberately conjured up an image of Patrick Roy's fateful last stand in Montreal as the Canadiens' 100th season drew to a disappointing end.

Price, Montreal's sophomore goalie, raised his arms over his head in response to a sarcastic cheer from the Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 after he stopped a harmless dump-in during the Canadiens' season-ending 4-1 loss to Boston on Wednesday night.

Montreal was swept in four straight by the top-seeded Bruins in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal, and Price's gesture left the hockey-mad city divided, with many fans and pundits criticizing him for being brash while general manager and coach Bob Gainey defended him for standing up for himself.

"Well, to be honest, I used that particular gesture to remind the people that booing doesn't always help," Price said at a press conference at the team's suburban practice facility Thursday.

Roy made the same gesture 14 years earlier when he responded in kind to mock cheers in what would prove to be his final game with Montreal.

The future Hall of Famer had twice been voted the playoff MVP while leading the Canadiens to a pair of Stanley Cup wins, first as a rookie in 1986, and again in 1993.

Despite his superstar stature, Roy had the Montreal Forum crowd turn on him during a humiliating 11-1 loss to Detroit on Dec. 2, 1995, in which he allowed the first nine goals before he was pulled in the second period.

Roy forced a trade and went on to win two more Stanley Cups with Colorado, adding a record third Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP with the Avalanche in 2001.

"That's the biggest thing that comes into my mind when I think of somebody getting booed out of the rink," Price said. "It doesn't always help but I guess I could have gone in another direction."

Widely considered to have star potential, Price made it clear that he wants to remain with the team.

"At 21 years old, I think he's doing pretty darn well," Gainey said.

Price may be the least of the Gainey's concerns as he heads into the offseason with 10 unrestricted free agents, including six key players - defensemen Mike Komisarek and Mathieu Schneider, and forwards Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang and longtime captain Saku Koivu.

"If I haven't signed before July 1, then I don't think I'll come back to Montreal," Koivu said. "I think everything has to be done, most likely, before and we have lots of time until that day and if our vision about next year, about the future is the same, I think I'm sure we'll get it done before July 1, but it's possible that I'm unsigned at that time and then I'll end up somewhere else."

Right wing Tom Kostopoulos, and defensemen Francis Bouillon, Patrice Brisebois and Mathieu Dandenault also are eligible to become free agents on July 1.

Gainey pointed out that the second half of the season is "where things started to go off course", making it clear that he was angry with how discussions on a possible trade to acquire Tampa Bay star Vincent Lecavalier became common knowledge.

"I got a call early in January with a list of names from their team that they wanted to talk about and those players ended up public because they used those names to take them to other teams to see if they could create another trade for Vincent Lecavalier," Gainey said. "And I think it was disgraceful that Josh Gorges and Tomas Plekanec and Chris Higgins have to read that stuff."

After firing coach Guy Carbonneau on March 7, Gainey took over behind the bench and the Canadiens went 1-3-2 in their next six games before claiming 11 of a possible 12 points during a 5-0-1 run punctuated by a 6-2 win in Toronto.

Top defenseman Andrei Markov and Schneider were injured in the April 4 win over the Maple Leafs, and Markov missed the last four games of the regular season, all losses as the Canadiens backed into the playoffs in the eighth and final spot.

"We had serious injuries to important players and that affects your team over time," Gainey said.

With owner George Gillett putting up for sale all or part of the team, the Canadiens' plans are uncertain.

Gainey expressed his desire to remain the GM, and said he would take a few weeks to consider the coaching situation and did not rule a possible return in that role.

With his decision to trade Cristobal Huet last season, Gainey established Price as the team's starting goalie, conveying upon him all the expectations, hopes and pressure that accompany that unique job.

"It's going to be something that I'm going to have to learn to deal with," Price said. "When things are going well, it's really awesome. It's never easy for anybody to face the music, no matter what kind of job you're in. When things aren't going well your boss is going to give it to you. Unfortunately for me my boss is 21,000 people."

And Gainey pointed out that despite the Canadiens' enviable history and record 24 Stanley Cups, Montreal fans have to accept that hockey success is not a birthright.

"People love the sport here and in some ways that's a positive, and in some ways passion can be detrimental," Gainey said. "It is what it is - it's a great place to play, the people care, it's a great team with great traditions, and we get in and compete on an equal level with everyone else."

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