Leafs pay the Price

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The arrival of Carey Price gives the Toronto-Montreal rivalry a new chapter and for one night at least, a happy ending for the Habitants.

The Canadiens' rookie netminder reversed a trend of losing close games to the Leafs, with 37 saves last evening, preserving them for Mike Komisarek's overtime breakaway goal in a 4-3 decision. It was the ninth one-goal game in the past 11 meetings between the NHL's keystone franchises, but Montreal's first win in three tries this season.

"Price was really solid," conceded Leafs defenceman Ian White. "It looked like he didn't have to move much, but maybe that's because he's so big (6-foot-3, 226 pounds)."

Better goaltending has been the Leafs' best weapon in the most recent years of the duel and Andrew Raycroft was no slouch in a surprise start ahead of the flu-weakened Vesa Toskala. But the Leafs spun their wheels at home and now have just three wins at the Air Canada Centre (3-4-4).

"We've got to get it done, in overtime or in shootouts," White said. "We never gave up and they never gave up, but we made a couple of mental lapses and the skill teams will make you pay."

The crusher was a soft pass from Bryan McCabe across the Habs blue line to Nik Antropov with the teams at 3-on-3 because of off-setting penalties in extra time. Komisarek picked it off and scored. McCabe had been stoned by Price a few seconds earlier and had been off target with many shots during the Leafs 1-for-6 power play.

"It seems they always end on a glaring error," McCabe said of his season of setbacks, including an own goal. "Five seconds earlier I could've been the hero.

"I thought I've played three pretty good games since I came back (from a groin injury). But what can you do?

"These games add up at the end of the year (in playoff rankings), but one point is better than none."

LOSING THE LEAD

The Leafs had the lead on two occasions, the last when Boyd Devereaux picked himself up after a heavy hit into the boards to tip in a White shot at 9:44 of the third. But Alex Kovalev finished off a strong Tomas Plekanec rush with a little more than six minutes to play.

The Leafs had dozed off after the second of Kyle Wellwood goals, his first of the season, pushing Toronto around to score in the last minute of the second period.

Price was welcomed to the rivalry with 13 first-period shots and was able to survive a 5-on-3 for 1:13 in the second. His status with the team sparked a huge debate between general manager Bob Gainey and coach Guy Carbonneau about keeping him with the team or starting him on the farm in Hamilton. But now he has moved ahead of Cristobal Huet, who had allowed three late goals against Toronto in recent starts. He's now 4-1-1.

"It was a lot of fun here, a great atmosphere," the Vancouver-born Price said. "I'm glad the team came out on top in Toronto. We've had trouble here."

Leafs coach Paul Maurice tried to remain confident about his power play, even though it's last in the conference with just 11 goals in 88 chances.

"We're starting to see some life," Maurice said. "Kyle's hands are starting to return. Our power play is at its best when (almost 20,000 fans last night) are yelling 'shoot' and we're being patient."

Raycroft was beaten by Andrei Markov on a 5-on-3 after Hal Gill's poorly disguised forward pass -- grabbing the puck and throwing it out behind his back -- putting the Leafs two men down. Markov rifled his sixth of the year as the Canadiens' power play continues to flirt with a league-leading 30% success rate, without the departed Sheldon Souray.

Komisarek now has scored twice against the Leafs this year, his only goals.

"The coach will have to use him in the shootout now," Price said.


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