MONTREAL – Carey Price was subdued in the Montreal Canadiens dressing room Sunday in spite of just having won his sixth straight start and being the backbone of a team that is arguably the biggest surprise in the NHL through the first two weeks of the season.
And perhaps his attitude is a prime example of what this team learned while spiraling down towards a last place finish in the Eastern Conference last season.
"We've got to maintain an even keel attitude," Price said after making 32 saves to give the Canadiens a 2-1 win against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday afternoon. "Whether things are going really good or really bad, we've just got to come to the rink with the same attitude and the same work ethic."
Goals by David Desharnais and Erik Cole in the first stood up for the Canadiens to give them sweep of their traditional pair of Super Bowl weekend matinees for the first time since 2006.
Price's performance allowed him to climb to fourth in the NHL in both goals against average (1.70) and save percentage (.938).
"As far as I'm concerned he's one of the best goalies in the league," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "There are a lot of good goalies in the League, but he's in there with them."
Jakob Silfverberg scored the lone goal for the Senators (5-3-1), who lost their third straight road game.
"I thought our team played real hard," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "I thought [the Canadiens] had most of the first period, but for the whole game I'm pretty pleased with how we played. I'm disappointed with the loss, but I thought our team played well."
The Canadiens (6-2-0) welcomed forward Max Pacioretty back to the lineup just eight days after he underwent an emergency appendectomy, a procedure that was supposed to keep him sidelined a minimum of three weeks. He made an immediate impact, picking up an assist on his first shift of the game when his shot was deflected in by Desharnais to tie the game 1-1.
“I feel really well,” Pacioretty said. “Obviously, it’s tough sometimes taking a week off from games, but I’ve got to credit my linemates. They did a lot of the skating early on and that helped me out a lot.”
The Senators – already missing top center Jason Spezza – were without defenseman Sergei Gonchar for the second time in three games, with both his absences coming against the Canadiens. He sat out a 5-1 win at home against Montreal on Wednesday with an undisclosed injury, and on Sunday the Senators announced he was out with the flu.
However, MacLean would not blame Spezza's absence for the fact his team has scored only one goal in two games.
I think we created some scoring opportunities, we just didn't score," he said. "That's not because Jason's not here. If we weren't creating scoring opportunities, I think there would be some more concern. But there are opportunities there, we just have to finish them."
Senators goaltender Craig Anderson allowed as many as two goals for just the second time this season, and he still has not allowed a single goal after the first intermission in any of his eight games played.
Price, meanwhile, had an outstanding Super Bowl weekend, starting both games and allowing just one goal in both games.
"Both goalies tonight put on a show," Therrien said. "Carey was fantastic, and Anderson has been the Senators' best player all season."
But the Senators may argue that Price in fact allowed two goals on Sunday.
With the Canadiens ahead 2-1 early in the third period, Senators defenseman Andre Benoit appeared to beat Price with a wrist shot from the point for his first career goal thanks to a screen by Silfverberg. But referee Brian Pochmara immediately waved the goal off, determining Silfverberg's screen was a little too good and sending him to the box for goaltender interference. Replays appeared to suggest, however, that Silfverberg made minimal contact with Price, who was outside his crease at the time.
"I wasn't sure what was going on at first, but I was obviously disappointed when I realized the goal was no good," Benoit said. "I could have tied the game, which would have been good, but there's nothing we can do about it."
Silfverberg had opened the scoring for the Senators with his second of the season just 98 seconds into the game off a power play breakaway, only the second time in nine games this season Ottawa scored the first goal. But the Canadiens tied it up 35 seconds later on Desharnais' third goal in two games after going without one in his first six games of the season.
Montreal took the lead 2-1 at 11:29 of the first period just three seconds after a power play expired. Francis Bouillon found Cole in front of the net, and the Canadiens forward had to time to wait for Anderson to go down before lifting a shot above him for his second of the season.
Both teams traded chances in a second period that remained scoreless thanks to the work of the two goaltenders. Anderson's nicest stop came just before the 11-minute mark when he got across to deny Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk off a rebound, and Price matched it about three minutes later when he sprawled out to get a pad on a Daniel Alfredsson chance from in tight.
After the apparent Benoit goal was denied early in the third, Anderson made another incredible save on a Galchenyuk one-timer on the ensuing power play, and he got some help when Rene Bourque's slap shot just past the midway point of the third rang off the inside of the far post.