Bell Centre, Montreal
Tomas Plekanec (MTL) — 1 goal, 1 assist
P.K. Subban (MTL) — 1 assist
Carey Price (MTL) — 18 saves
It might be time for thousands of Montreal Canadiens fans to issue an apology to Carey Price.
When general manager Pierre Gauthier traded 2010 playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis on June 17, many fans believed the wrong goaltender had been dealt.
The 23-year-old Price is getting the last laugh now after backstopping Montreal to a third consecutive win, 5-3 over the visiting New York Islanders in the opener of a home-and-home series Wednesday night.
Making his ninth consecutive start, Price turned aside 18 of 21 shots for his sixth victory, tied with Washington's Michal Neuvirth for tops in the NHL. Price also drew an assist on Jeff Halpern's game-winning goal and saw his career-best goals-against average rise slightly from 2.23 to 2.32.
Nino heading to WHL?
New York Islanders management will wait until at least Thursday to decide on the immediate future of 2010 first-round draft pick Nino Niederreiter.
The Swiss right-winger played his ninth game of the season Wednesday at Montreal, recording two hits in 14 minutes 28 seconds of ice time.
If Niederreiter plays 10 games, it will count as a full season, in terms of eligibility for salary arbitration and free agency down the road.
"We haven't made [a decision] yet and he wasn't going to make or not make our team based on this game," Islanders coach Scott Gordon told reporters after Wednesday's contest.
Niederreiter, who was chosen fifth overall at the June entry draft, has a goal and an assist in nine games but soon could find himself with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.
— Doug Harrison
"We just weren't very sharp and they were able to generate a lot of offence over our own mistakes," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said.
The Canadiens improved their record to 6-2-1 for 13 points, tied atop the Eastern Conference with Tampa Bay, also 6-2-1 following a 5-3 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The Lightning are officially first by virtue of their 4-3 victory over Montreal on Oct. 13.
Price stood his ground in the third period as the Islanders twice cut a pair of two-goal deficits in half but couldn't draw the equalizer.
He set the tone in the game's opening two minutes when he denied John Tavares twice on the same rush. But the young Islander, fresh off his first NHL hat trick in Saturday's 4-3 win over Florida, would later solve the Montreal goalie.
With New York trailing 3-1, Tavares tipped in a James Wisniewski point shot 13 seconds into the third period for his sixth goal in as many games since returning from a three-game absence with a concussion. It was also his first point in five career games versus the Canadiens and extended his points streak to five games (eight points).
Later in the period with Montreal leading 4-3, Andrei Kostitsyn sealed the visitors' fate with his sixth goal of the season and fifth in five games, an empty-netter with two seconds left in regulation.
One of Price's bigger stops came early in the second when he denied Jon Sim during a goalmouth scramble to preserve a 2-1 lead. A few minutes later, Tomas Plekanec unleashed a bullet from above the hash marks to the corner over Dwayne Roloson's right shoulder to make it 3-1. All four of Plekanec's goals this season have been scored on home ice.
"It's really enjoyable to see the team come together like this," said Halpern. "We're starting to create and Pleky's [Plekanec's] line [with Mike Cammalleri and Kostitsyn] is leading the charge."
The trio has combined for 13 points in the last three games, including four goals and two assists for Kostitsyn.
Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen, with his seventh career short-handed goal, rounded out the scoring for Montreal.
Doug Weight and Wisniewski, who leads the NHL with nine power-play points, rounded out the scoring for the 4-3-2 Islanders, who return home with a 2-2 mark on their four-game road trip.
Four of Montreal's goals against Roloson were redirected. The 41-year-old made 30 saves, including a Benoit Pouliot penalty shot in the third period, but Roloson dropped to 0-3-2 in his career versus the Canadiens.
Game time for Friday's rematch on Long Island is 7 p.m. ET.
Subban strong at both ends
In the first period alone, Canadiens rookie defenceman P.K. Subban assisted on a Mathieu Darche goal, rang a shot off the post, made two huge defensive plays to prevent Islanders scoring opportunities and was whistled for roughing. Teammate Travis Moen bailed him out with a short-handed goal.
Subban, 21, finished with a plus-1 rating, two blocked shots and shared the team lead with Andrei Kostitsyn with five shots in 19 minutes 29 seconds of ice time.
Centre/left-winger Josh Bailey returned to the Islanders lineup after missing two games with a strained hip flexor. He took 26 shifts and finished plus-1 with four penalty minutes. Bailey had three goals and six points before the injury.