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Canadiens vs Penguins recap: All the usual goats come up big

It's a pretty rare thing to see essentially all of the players who have been consistently ripped for their performance during a season score in one game, but that's what happened in the Habs' big win over the Penguins.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins are a very good, very well-coached hockey club. In their previous meeting with the Canadiens, they clearly and totally outplayed Montreal while the score was close, and shut them out 4-0. It was an ugly loss and one that stuck out to Canadiens fans, even while the team was racking up wins.

Pittsburgh is the assumed best team in the Eastern Conference, and you want to perform well against the best, and the Canadiens got off to a perfect start in that regard, scoring on two of their first nine shot attempts, even though Max Pacioretty's goal featured a sneaky Brendan Gallagher streaking through the crease and knocking Marc-Andre Fleury slightly, just enough to give Pacioretty an open net.

The second goal was the beginning of what I'll dub "Goat night" as the Habs' biggest punching bags here, and elsewhere proceeded to give the Canadiens the win with a nice screened slap shot from David Desharnais beating Fleury.

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Following Sidney Crosby creating David Perron's first goal for the Penguins, Tom Gilbert was sprung by Pacioretty and P.K. Subban coming out of the penalty box and made Fleury pay, and in the third period, great board work by Jiri Sekac, Michael Bournival, and a great pass from Lars Eller found a completely uncovered Alexei Emelin, who fired an absolute bullet off both posts and in to seal the game.

When the Habs went up 2-0 on the Penguins, they had a nice little start going in the possession game, leading in unblocked shot attempts 7-3. You can say it was score effects to a certain extent, but the rest of the game, Montreal was out-Fenwicked 40-23, or to put it another way, the Habs controlled just 36.5% of all unblocked shot attempts after 6:35 into the first period. Ugly.

But that's the way the Habs have been winning all season, and with the way Carey Price is playing, maybe that won't stop for awhile longer.

Let's talk about Carey Price for a minute

Price is now tied with Pekka Rinne for first in the NHL among starting goaltenders with a sparkling .929 save percentage, and thanks to Alex_Icon, we know that since October 18th, Price has been outplaying Rinne by a fairly significant margin, while facing more shots, for a team that gives a much thinner margin of victory.

The Habs' win over the Devils on Friday night was Price's 400th career game, at just the age of 27. To put that in a little bit of context, Henrik Lundqvist at the same age had played just 195 games, and recorded a career save percentage of just .916, compared to Price's .918, and Lundqvist's Rangers were consistently good while he broke into the league.

Those 400 games by this age may not seem that important, but when you look at the way Carey Price carries himself, like a veteran far beyond his years, a leader of this team, you realize how important those early, formative years were.

There are some who see the way Price has played over the last four seasons and still believe he was brought into the NHL too soon, but I couldn't possibly disagree more. Price was passed through the fire in hockey's hottest hotbed, went through the worst you could dream up, and came out stronger for it.

In 2009 when the Habs were swept by the Bruins, a series that was decided before it started, Price was heckled, pelted with garbage, and responded by pulling the patented Patrick Roy salute to the crowd after being jeered for a routine save. In the post game scrum, one of the first questions he was asked was whether he still wanted to be a Montreal Canadien, he responded "Yeah, obviously." I don't think for most players that the answer would be obvious.

If you had asked 21,273 people what Carey Price's career would look like five and a half years later, I'm not sure a single one could have possibly predicted it would include 401 games for the Canadiens, him being the unspoken captain of the team, an Olympic gold medal, and the unquestioned respect of his peers.

If only the Canadiens could let all their stars shine as bright as they force Price to, this team could be something special in more than just the standings.