There was a palpable air of relief, tinged with sadness, in the winning dressing room.
Canadiens are 1-0 in the Carey Price era, and the goaltender who stopped 26 of 27 Atlanta shots talked about losing "one of our brothers" when the team traded Cristobal Huet today.
"Everybody was pretty emotional," Price added. "We knew we had to come out and put it behind us for tonight."
Christopher Higgins was relieved. His name had been mentioned frequently in trade rumours, and when the speculation came to naught, Higgins went out and played his best game of the season: two goals, an assist on an Andrei Markov beauty and a succession of solid, hard-working shifts on the revived Saku Koivu line.
"It’s a general sense of relief," Higgins said. He had tried to keep trade speculation out of his mind, but it wasn’t easy.
Higgins said he had tried to get his game back on track and "clean things up mentally a little bit."
"You never know if you’re going to get moved," Higggins said. "You start to think about how great a city it is here, how much fun you’ve had, what great friendships you’ve made.
"You get traded and you’ve got to start over with a new team. It definitely hits home when you hear your name in the media that you could get moved."
The speculation is over. The team that beat Atlanta 5-1 tonight is, with maybe a tweak here and there, the one that will finish the season.
"It’s nice to have our team," Higgins said. "Barring injuries, this is it. We’re excited."
If Price was excited, he did his usual cool job of camouflaging it. But there was genuine sadness in the young man’s voice when he talked about the positive influence of the goalie he’s succeeded.
Huet, Price said, was "unbelievable … he was like an older brother to me."
"He’s a first-class guy," Price added, "and just a great teammate. I couldn’t say a bad thing about that man."