MONTREAL — Manny Malhotra wasn't brought to Montreal to score goals, so the Canadiens knew it might take a while before he got one.
The veteran center's time finally came in Montreal's 4-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Malhotra scored in his 53rd game with Montreal at 5:00 of the first period when he took a drop pass from Dale Weise and beat Jonathan Bernier from close range.
"I waited long enough," the fourth-line faceoff ace said. "It's nice to contribute.
"It gets more and more frustrating as the games go by and you're not on the offensive side of things, but it came at a good time."
David Desharnais had two goals, and Tomas Plekanec also scored for Montreal (41-16-5), which has won four in a row and 14 of 19.
The Maple Leafs (25-32-5) had a two-game winning streak snapped despite outshooting the Canadiens 30-23.
"They only had 11 shots after two periods," Maple Leafs coach Peter Horachek said. "We turned over that first goal, they had an empty-net goal, and that third goal was clearly goalie interference.
"But there was some good compete there. We had some good opportunities."
Carey Price made 30 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and the 31st of his NHL career.
"You get breaks throughout the game, and you play behind a team that's committed to blocking shots (19) and playing defense," Price said of the shutout. "I thought we played a pretty tight game."
After Malhotra scored, Bernier let in a soft goal at 12:57 when, with the Canadiens up a skater on a delayed penalty, Plekanec scored on a wrist shot to the short side.
Desharnais earned his 200th career point when he slid the puck in from a scramble in the crease in which Bernier looked to be bumped by Brendan Gallagher.
"Personally, it was one of the worst goals I've seen," Bernier said. "Gallagher pushed me in, and the goal was good. It's really frustrating. He's allowed to push me in if the puck is loose. Strange."
Horachek pulled Bernier for an extra attacker with nearly five minutes left, but Desharnais flipped in his second goal of the night and 11th of the season into an empty net with 2:32 left.
Toronto native Devante Smith-Pelly, acquired this week from Anaheim, played in his first home game with the Canadiens.
He was impressed with the noise from the 21,287 at the Bell Centre.
"I think I'm going to like playing here," said Smith-Pelly, who will be back in Anaheim next week when the Canadiens go on a four-game West Coast trip.
Montreal fans grew nervous as the Canadiens defensemen played the puck back to Price three times while killing penalties. It's a common move in soccer, but coach Michel Therrien said it definitely wasn't part of the game plan.
"When it works it's OK, but we'd rather go the other way than to have it come back into our end," he said.
It didn't faze Price, who turned over the puck after one pass back but easily cleared the other two.
"It's not Plan A, but if they're in a tough situation it's easiest just to bump it back to me," said Price, the NHL leader in save percentage and goals-against average. "More often than not I'll make a decent play with it."
NOTES: Montreal RW P.A. Parenteau was cleared to return from a concussion, but Therrien made him a healthy scratch along with D Mike Weaver. ... D Sergei Gonchar returned after missing six games due to an upper-body injury sustained Feb. 14 against Toronto. ... The Maple Leafs scratched C Trevor Smith.
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