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Price, Canadiens end Flames' winning streak

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Carey Price is heating up heading into the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Good luck getting him to admit it.

Rene Bourque scored at 16:15 of the second period to give Price all the cushion he would need in the Montreal Canadiens' 2-0 win against the Calgary Flames at Bell Centre on Tuesday.

Price made 27 saves for his second shutout in four starts and has stopped 130 of the 134 shots he has faced in that span, a save percentage of .970.

"We played pretty well in our own end this evening," Price said, deflecting the praise to his teammates. "We really limited their scoring chances tonight, and that's the biggest reason we won."

Price, one of three goalies named to the Canadian Olympic team, had allowed 24 goals on 164 shots in the six starts immediately prior to this hot stretch, a save percentage of .853. But just as Price credited his teammates with helping him earn his fourth shutout of the season Tuesday, it was his team that let him down during that time as well by allowing a high volume of quality scoring chances.

Still, those statistics were leading some to wonder if Canada should be worried about its goaltending heading into the Olympics with none of Price, Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo or Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes putting up numbers that inspired much confidence.

Price has now turned it around emphatically, but he clearly is not giving any thought to what will happen in Russia beginning next week.

"It's a pretty critical part of the year for us, we're obviously battling for that [playoff] spot," Price said in response to a direct question about his play leading into the Olympics. "Every game from here on out is important."

He was later asked again about the Olympics, and again Price answered what appeared to be a question he made up in his own mind.

"It's all about our preparation," he said. "I think as a group we're preparing for each game well and it's translating into pretty solid play for us lately."

Price is clearly focused on the Canadiens, not Canada.

His shutout helped the Canadiens (30-21-6) snap a two-game losing streak (0-1-1) to move into third place in the Atlantic Division ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost 4-1 loss on the road to the Florida Panthers.

The Flames (21-28-7) saw their season-high five-game winning streak come to an end in the opener of a road trip that will take them to the Olympic break.

"We stuck to our game plan," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "We knew we were playing a team that had some success of late and that beat some big teams. They were coming here with a lot of confidence. We needed to be disciplined and the players never wavered from that."

The game was Flames forward Michael Cammalleri's first against the Canadiens since they traded him to Calgary between periods of a game, and it was the player he was traded for who turned that first encounter into a loss.

Bourque was acquired from the Flames on Jan. 12, 2012, for Cammalleri in a trade consummated during the second intermission of a Canadiens road game against the Boston Bruins. His second goal in 21 games gave Montreal the victory.

Brandon Prust did most of the heavy lifting on the goal by entering the Flames zone, stopping next to the Calgary net to wait for defenseman Dennis Wideman to slide by and then banking a shot off Bourque's leg and behind Reto Berra at 16:15 of the second period.

"There wasn't much offense in this game," Bourque said. "It was one of those ugly goals that was going to win it."

To make matters worse for Cammalleri he was called for hooking with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, which helped the Canadiens ice the win when David Desharnais scored into an empty net with 10.1 seconds to play.

Rather than dwell on what the Flames didn't do well, Cammalleri preferred to focus on what he felt was some strong defensive play from both teams.

"I thought there was a lot of pretty good speed on the back pressure from both teams and that made it hard to create on rushes and chances that you can dictate play with," he said. "We'd obviously like to do things better and make things challenging on their defense, but at the same time you've got to give credit to both clubs for a real hard backcheck tonight and taking time and space away."

Berra made 26 saves to keep the Flames in the game in the absence of injured starter Karri Ramo, who was acquired in the same trade that sent Cammalleri to Calgary.

The Flames became an offensive machine in winning every game of a five-game homestand with 20 goals, but that firepower did not travel East with them.

That was most evident at 4:36 of the second period when Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller, Montreal's top two penalty-killing centers, were called for simultaneous penalties to give Calgary two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play. The Flames were credited with three shots on goal during the advantage, none of them particularly dangerous, and rarely threatened after that.

"It's crucial for us to get that goal on the 5-on-3," Cammalleri said. "It's not acceptable. Obviously we need to score there."

The closest the Flames came to scoring came when Lee Stempniak's rather innocuous shot at 1:44 of the second squeezed through Price and landed on the goal line, slowly creeping forward but not quite crossing it. The play went to video review, which confirmed that the puck stayed out.

"It was kind of a weird play. He just threw it on net, it hit my stick and just sat on the goal line," Price said. "I didn't know if it was in or not. I knew it was going to be really close, so I just tried to fall on it and block all the camera views."

The game marked the Canadiens debut of forward Dale Weise, acquired from the Vancouver Canucks on Monday in exchange for defenseman Raphael Diaz. Weise played well on a fourth line with Ryan White and Michael Bournival, with the three combining for nine of Montreal's 27 shots on goal and consistently pressuring the Flames in the offensive zone.

"I was just so excited," Weise said. "This was my childhood team growing up so it was a dream come true to play here tonight."

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