Price sharp, but not Sharp enough in Chicago
Carey Price did everything he could on Friday to hold on to his starting job in Montreal, but it still wasn't enough to nab his third win of the season.
Though he lost his fifth game in seven starts as the Canadiens fell 3-2 to the hometown Chicago Blackhawks, Price reminded everybody why he was (still is?) touted as Montreal's long-term starting goalie, stopping 33 of 36 shots fired his way.
By comparison, Blackhawks goalie Cristobal Huet — who was Price's backup and mentor until he was traded away from Montreal in February 2008 — only faced 22 shots and stopped 20.
Chicago sniper Patrick Sharp scored the game-winner at 15:50 of the third period. Patrick Kane saw Sharp calling for the puck while the Hawks were on the rush, and feathered a pass over to the 27-year-old, who one-timed a shot into the net for his sixth of the season.
"Sharpie scored our biggest goal of the year," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's 2-2 late in the game. We needed two points and we had a whole week to think about today's game."
The 20-year-old Kane had two assists on the night.
'Sharpie finds a way'
"Actually, I was trying to beat my winger," Kane said about the pass to Sharp on the game-winner. "But Sharpie always finds a way to get open."
Toews still out
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews missed his fourth straight game because of concussion-like symptoms, sitting out Friday night against Montreal.
Toews hasn't resumed skating after a crushing open-ice hit from Vancouver's Willie Mitchell on Oct. 21. Toews is listed as day-to-day.
"The progress hasn't been exactly where we wanted it," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "There's been some progress, but at the same time, we're just waiting to see."
After Friday, the Blackhawks don't play again until Thursday night at Phoenix, followed by a game the next night at Colorado.
Quenneville said Toews will make the trip with the team.
"We've got the weekend here and a couple of days next week," Quenneville said. "Hopefully we can get him back on the ice and back out there."
Toews, in his third NHL season, has a goal and four assists in nine games. Last season, the 21-year-old centre had a team-high 34 goals, and added 35 assists.
Much has been made of the impending goalie battle going on in Montreal after Price, who went 2-4 to start the season, was removed from the starter's role in favour of Jaroslav Halak a couple weeks ago.
All Halak did was reel off four straight wins before laying an egg in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, giving up four goals in two periods before being replaced by Price.
The Canadiens No. 1 was back in the crease Friday against the Hawks, and gave his team a chance to make a comeback after the Habs went down 2-0, which is exactly what they did before Sharp's goal sealed the win for Chicago.
"We just wanted to keep moving forward," Sharp said. "Without trying to sound cocky or arrogant, we knew we were going to win."
Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker both picked up a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks (8-4-1). Mike Cammalleri and Travis Moen replied for the Canadiens (6-7-0).
"We started doing some things right and it paid off for a short period of time, but not the whole game," Cammalleri said. "With as many good saves as [Price] had, we should have won.
"But I thought we were too easy to play against and I don't think we made it difficult enough on them to make them do what they wanted."
The loss is the Habs' fifth straight outside the Bell Centre.
Headshot sparks dustup
Fireworks erupted after a headshot on Montreal's Matt D'Agostini by Blackhawks winger Andrew Ladd left the Habs winger dazed nearly four minutes into the game.
Ladd slammed into D'Agostini while he was heading up-ice near the Habs' bench. His Montreal teammates weren't pleased and voiced their displeasure by trying to get after Ladd. Replays of the hit showed Ladd's lead shoulder caught D'Agostini flush in the face.
D'Agostini was groggy and left for the Montreal dressing room. He didn't return to the game. Ladd was slapped with a five-minute major for elbowing, two for roughing, and a 10-minute misconduct. Montreal's Kyle Chipchura was penalized four minutes for roughing.
The end result was that the Canadiens had an odd three-minute major power play after two minutes of four-on-four, which they couldn't capitalize on.
Chicago made them pay for that missed chance at 13:46 of the first frame. Versteeg scored from behind the Montreal net as his centring pass went off defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron and past Price to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
Huet made several stops to hold off an extended Montreal flurry midway through the second period, prompting Quenneville to call a timeout at 9:32 to try and regroup.
It worked — less than a minute later, it was 2-0 Chicago. At 9:54 of the frame, Barker deflected a Versteeg slapshot by Price for his third of the season while on the power play.
At 15:55, the Habs got one back as Cammalleri slammed his sixth of the season home by jumping on a rebound off Jaroslav Spacek's point shot.
With two seconds left, the Canadiens tied the game, thanks to Moen's fourth of the season. The 27-year-old threw a shot at Huet from behind the net, and the puck snuck between the Chicago goalie and the post before trickling over the line to tie the game 2-2.
Both teams traded chances in the third before Sharp's goal sealed it for Chicago.
Next up for Montreal is another Original Six date, this time with eternal rival Toronto as the Leafs visit the Bell Centre on Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
With files from The Associated Press