Maple Leafs pay the Price

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price makes a save on Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin at the Bell...

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price makes a save on Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin at the Bell Centre in Montreal on November 20, 2010. (SHAUN BEST/Reuters)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:54 PM ET

MONTREAL - If you were among of the 21,273 fortunate enough to be at an electric Bell Centre on Saturday night, the atmosphere, like the entertainment, was through the roof.

From the ultimate rafters beyond, the late Pat Burns would have roared his approval if he happened to catch this high-flying, end-to-end game that had the sellout crowd in a frenzy.

The Leafs and Canadiens followed an emotional tribute to the man who coached both teams during what should be a Hall of Fame career with a stirring 60 minutes of hockey.

Montreal ultimately got the 2-0 win thanks to a brilliant and once again in vogue Carey Price in net, a fortunate short-handed goal in the second and a devastating giveaway by ex-Hab Mike Komisarek midway through the third.

"We gift-wrapped a couple for them," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, whose team ended its modest two-game win streak. "And we couldn't find a way to score."

By the end of it, the same fans who wanted to run Price out of town last season were alternately chanting his name along with their trademark "Ole, Ole, Ole" anthem.

The Montreal goalie, who has withstood a fire storm of criticism in his time here, recorded his fourth shutout of the season and third in his past six starts. Though he had never met Burns, he heard a lot about him from Habs assistant Kirk Muller and appreciated his influence on the Canadiens.

The loss spoiled an inspired performance by Toronto netminder Jonas Gustavsson, who had one of the best games of his young NHL career, kicking aside 36 of the 38 shots he faced.

Given that both Montreal goals came off of defensive blunders in front of him, it was also one of his more unjust results.

"I worry about helping keep (my teammates) in the game, whether we score or not," said Gustavsson, who is making a strong impression as he replaces injured J-S Giguere. "Maybe next game we will score five goals. You can't think about it."

The Monster got a little unlucky midway through the second when Jeff Halpern scored a short-handed goal on a deflection that handcuffed the Leafs goalie.

Toronto struggled in faceoffs all night -- losing 35 of 53 -- and when Mikhail Grabovski lost this draw to Halpern in their own end, the Montreal forward drifted to the front of the Leafs net unchecked and got an easy deflection on the point shot.

As has been the case every time Komisarek returns to Montreal as a Leaf, he was booed heartily throughout the night but those jeers may turn to cheers if he serves up any more gifts like the awful pass that set up the second Habs goal with 7:55 remaining.

Komisarek did the unpardonable for a defenceman trying to kill a penalty when he feathered a blind pass from the boards in front of his own net. That ill-advised move landed square on the stick of Mike Cammalleri, who promptly buried it.

"It's a tough play, I just have to execute it better," Komisarek said. "Both (Francois Beauchemin and Tim Brent) were calling for it, but it lies on me to turn around and make the play."

The Leafs couldn't help but get caught up in the emotion of the night. Besides the Burns tribute and the natural, historic rivalry with the Habs, 19 of the 24 players on the roster were accompanied on the trip by their fathers.

And they had their share of chances -- including a number from the high speed Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel-Nazem Kadri line -- but couldn't solve Price, who stopped all 30 Toronto shots he faced. The Leafs have now been shut out four times in their past 11 games.

"Give him some credit, he made some big saves," said Kadri, who was out muscled in tight on a couple of good opportunities. "We had some "A" scoring chances and he was there to make big saves."

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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