Game 3: Price brilliant in debut, Habs beat Penguins 3-2

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0priceexhib.gifGoalie Carey Price, in exhibition action this season with defenceman Andrei Markov, has shown he belongs.
Tyrel Featherstone, Gazette

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Any debate over the readiness of Canadiens goalie Carey Price for the National Hockey League has been settled. The kid is poised, confident and plays his angles beautifully. He is more than ready.

And Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau just might have bottled lightning with a second line of Tomas Plekanec, Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn.

Thanks in huge part to young netminder Price’s terrific work, his first game in an NHL career the Canadiens hope lasts many years, Montreal scored an impressive 3-2, nailbiting victory Wednesday night over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Price made 26 saves in a hugely impressive NHL debut at the Mellon Arena. Montreal had 35 shots on Marc-André Fleury in the Pittsburgh goal.

The Canadiens are now 2-0-1, having earned five of six available points on their three-game, season-opening road trip. The Penguins are 1-2-0.

It took both teams two periods to get fully into gear, having played a surprisingly quiet first 40 minutes. But things got very interesting very quickly in the third.

Captain Saku Koivu helped give the Canadiens a 3-1 lead at 2:51 when he won a faceoff cleanly from Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Koivu pulled the puck back to Michael Ryder, whose shot caromed back to Markov, pinching in from the point. Markov’s second goal of the season came on a blast at 2:51; it would prove to be the winner.

But just 57 seconds later, Penguins’ Maxime Talbot pulled the home team to within one, Pittsburgh effortlessly controlling the boards behind the Canadiens net. Mark Recchi fed Evgeni Malkin, who snapped a smart backhand pass out front to an uncovered Talbot for a quick shot and Pittsburgh’s second goal.

The Canadiens’ first two goals of the game came in the second period, and both from the second line of Plekanec, Kovalev and Kostitsyn.

Plekanec, deep in the Canadiens zone, fed Kovalev just on the offensive side of centre ice, and Kovalev used Kostitsyn as a decoy on a 2-on-1, beating Fleury with a snap shot through the legs at 17:00.

Plekanec had scored the Canadiens’ first goal at 13:07, taking a perfect cross-ice power-play pass from defenceman Andrei Markov to whip a shot past Fleury to pull the Habs into a 1-1 tie.

The Penguins had opened the scoring at 7:08 of the second with Markov off for cross-checking Crosby; it was the fourth penalty of the game taken by the Canadiens.

Montreal defenceman Roman Hamrlik checked Crosby into Price, and with the netminder toppled prone, his stick knocked out of his hand, Ray Whitney lifted the puck into a yawning net from a scramble to put the Penguins on the scoreboard first.

But Price was excellent on a number of close-in chances by the Penguins, including one late in the second period when the Canadiens failed to clear the puck from a scramble and a number late in the third when Pittsburgh turned up the heat.

The goalie was even a human bowling pin with about a minute to play when he was smashed into by a sliding Malkin, who’d been beautifully pokechecked by Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisarek. Price stopped all of the game-high six shots off the stick of Crosby.

The Canadiens returned home immediately after the game and practice today to begin preparations for Saturday’s home opener vs. the Carolina Hurricanes, the team they beat 3-2 in overtime last week to begin the season.

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