TORONTO – George Gillett sat down beside his 20-year-old goaltender and chatted like old friends.
“Good job,” the Montreal Canadiens owner said to Carey Price in the visitors’ room at Air Canada Centre.
Price stopped 37 of 40 shots as the Canadiens rallied for a 4-3 overtime win Tuesday night over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I just treated it like another game,” the rookie, shrugging his shoulders, said of his first career start against Toronto. “I’m happy we won but it’s really just another win.”
His calm demeanour is the same on and off the ice and his older teammates are impressed.
“I like his style,” said Habs winger Alexei Kovalev, who had a three-point night. “I like that kid. He’s so calm. he’s got a nice future.”
Price allowed the Habs to hang around in a game they had no business being in, outshot 40-25 by the home club.
“Pricey made some huge saves, both our goalies have been huge for us all year,” said defenceman Mike Komisarek.
It was Komisarek – of all people – who scored 35 seconds into overtime on a clear breakaway from his own blue-line with both teams playing 3-on-3.
“I looked over my shoulder and saw it was just me and Andrew Raycroft,” said Komisarek, who scored his second goal of the season. “I tried not to get too fancy.”
Komisarek intercepted Bryan McCabe’s errant pass at the Montreal blue-line and skated in alone on a clear breakaway, beating Raycroft with a forehand deke through the five-hole to the delight of the many Habs fans in the Air Canada Centre.
“I had my chance and I jumped,” said Komisarek. “And the rest is history.”
Just moments earlier McCabe had nearly won the game but his blast was stopped by Price.
“I just tried to one-touch it to Nicky (Antropov),” said McCabe, facing the music in the Leafs dressing room. “Five seconds earlier I could have been the hero. I had a great chance. But that’s how it goes.”
Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn and Andrei Markov also scored for the Canadiens (10-4-3), who beat the Leafs for the first time in three tries this season (1-1-1).
“They beat us in our building last time so it was nice to beat them here in this building,” said Kovalev, who tallied his ninth of the season.
Boyd Devereaux had a goal while Kyle Wellwood had a pair for the Maple Leafs (7-7-5), who coughed up a 3-2 third-period lead.
The teams took turns dominating in the opening two periods, Montreal coming out strong but finding out Raycroft was more than up to the challenge, the Leafs goalie making a number of point-blank saves.
Raycroft could not turn aside Markov’s blast during a 5-on-3 Canadiens power play, the Habs fans jumping out of their seats as Montreal went up 1-0 at 13:43.
The Leafs turned the table on their rivals in the middle period, completely controlling the play. Wellwood tied the game 1-1 just 2:01 into the period, flipping a shot over Price after a super rush from Jiri Tlusty. It was Wellwood’s first goal of the season.
Toronto kept pressing for more but the young Price shut the door with several dazzling saves, including during a 5-on-3 man advantage for the Leafs.
But Wellwood finally beat him again with 1:34 to go in the second period, putting a rebound over a sprawled Price with two seconds left on a roughing penalty to Markov.
The Habs, however, came out charging on the very next shift. Tomas Plekanec’s second line buzzing in the Leafs zone before Alexei Kovalev set up a wide-open Kostitsyn who one-timed a shot top corner and glove side at 19:09 to tie it 2-2.
The Leafs continued to press in the third period and deserved to go ahead at 9:44 when Ian White’s point shot was deflected by Devereaux.
No lead is safe when these two teams play, however, and the Habs tied it up again 3-3 at 13:58 when Plekanec went flying around the Leafs defence and from behind the net found Kovalev in the slot who beat Raycroft top corner on the glove side.
Montreal veteran Bryan Smolinski left the game with a facial injury with 5;45 to go in the second period and but returned in the third.
Notes: The Habs lost rugged forward Garth Murray on waivers to Florida earlier Tuesday … Forward Mikhail Grabovski and defenceman Josh Gorges were healthy scratches for Montreal … The Leafs were without defencemen Pavel Kubina (knee) and Carlo Colaiacovo (knee) while forwards Wade Belak, Chad Kilger and John Pohl were healthy scratches … Defenceman Staffan Kronwall, called from the AHL Marlies on Monday, played in his first NHL game of the season … Montreal next plays Friday at Buffalo before hosting Boston on Saturday … The Leafs are at Boston on Thursday and host Ottawa on Saturday … Habs netminder Cristobal Huet has given up 13 goals in his last three starts against the Leafs dating back to last April crucial 6-5 loss here to end the season.