MONTREAL The Montreal Canadiens maintained a hold on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a domineering 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.
Alex Kovalev got Montreal rolling when he capitalized on a Chicago mistake just 25 seconds into the game and went on to add an assist.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price came out on top against former Montreal netminder Cristobal Huet by making 28 saves in the team's third victory in four games. Huet turned away 29 shots.
"It was a sad day for me when he (Huet) was traded (to Washington) last year," Price told reporters. "It was like losing a brother.
"He taught me how to stay calm... He was like a wall for us."
Price played that role on Tuesday by keeping Chicago without a goal until the third period.
"Any team that has a goalie behind them that gives off an aura of real confidence and stability and is making the strong saves...it is part of what makes up a good team game," Canadiens coach and general manager Bob Gainey said.
"It allows the other players to relax and play and carry out their responsibilities. He (Price) has given us that many times," added Gainey, who traded Huet to Washington last season.
"It was one of our best performances overall," Price said. "It was a really strong effort from everybody."
The win kept the Canadiens (39-27-10) a point ahead of the Florida Panthers (38-28-11) in the tight Eastern race.
Florida defeated Ottawa 5-2 on Tuesday to move to 87 points in the run for the eighth and final East playoff spot.
Chicago (40-24-11) stands fifth in the Western Conference, a point behind Calgary (43-27-6).
Kovalev ripped a wrist shot past Huet to start the Montreal scoring, latching on to Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith's blind pass behind the goal.
Guillaume Latendresse and Andrei Markov added goals in the second before Chicago's Patrick Sharp pulled one back 12:18 into the third.
Mathieu Schneider's powerplay tally for Montreal closed out the scoring with 3:17 remaining.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by John O'Brien/N.Ananthanarayanan)