MONTREAL — Montreal needed Carey Price to have a big game and the Canadiens' goalie came through.
Price stopped 40 shots to help Montreal hold off the Dallas Stars, 3-2 on Tuesday night. Alexei Emelin, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher scored for the Canadiens, who were outshot 42-26.
Fresh off his all-star weekend, which included a delayed flight back home and the prospect of being grounded in Columbus, Price showed no sign of fatigue en route to his 25th victory of the season.
"That's just Carey Price," the Canadiens' Manny Malhotra said. "You almost don't get wowed by it anymore. It's just his norm. Hats off to him every night. He comes up with the saves you'd expect him to make, and every night he gives us highlight reel saves that he has no business making."
Price made pivotal saves throughout to keep the Stars at bay. Price stopped 15 shots in the first period, another 15 in the second, and 10 in the third.
Up 2-1 at the start of the second, Price made a great blocker save on Jamie Benn, who was all alone in front after a defensive breakdown by the Canadiens. And after Brendan Gallagher scored the eventual winner early in the period, Price made five consecutive saves on a lengthy Stars power play — including 1:40 at 5-on-3 — to preserve Montreal's lead.
"It's what we've come to expect," Gallagher said. "He was unreal, save after save. There were a lot of times where it looked like they had pretty open nets, they were getting pretty good chances, and he was there to bail us out."
The only shots that beat Price were Benn's with less than 3 seconds remaining in the first period, and Patrick Eaves' midway through the second following an impressive individual effort by Tyler Seguin.
Just a few minutes after Price stoned Benn in front of goal in the second, Gallagher scored the winner on the power play at 4:37. Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen saved P.K. Subban's shot from the point before Gallagher jumped on the rebound and scooped the puck over the sprawled-out goalie.
Montreal improved to 13-3-1 in 17 games since losing to the Stars in Dallas on Nov. 11.
The Canadiens benefited from a fluke goal to open the scoring at 6:07 of the first period. Emelin's innocuous dump-in from the Dallas blue line ricocheted off Stars forward Cody Eakin and bounced awkwardly toward the net. The puck then evaded defenseman Trevor Daley, redirected off an unsuspecting Lehtonen and crossed the goal-line for Emelin's second goal of the season.
"I was going to my post, getting ready for the puck to get to the corner," said Lehtonen, who stopped 23 shots. "It hit something, and came to the front. That was one of those goals where I need to be sharper and not assume what's going to happen with the puck. There are always weird bounces."
Galchenyuk staked Montreal to a rare 2-0 first-period lead with an impressive individual effort at 9:53. The 20-year-old cut back toward goal after streaking down the wing, escaped defenseman Jordie Benn's long reach and beat Lehtonen with a backhand, short side. It was Montreal's fifth shot on target.
Dallas scored a crucial and somewhat controversial goal with less than 3 seconds on the clock in the first. After an intentional offside call against Subban, the faceoff moved down the ice to the right of Price. With 2.7 seconds remaining in the period, referees chased Manny Malhotra — the league's most efficient faceoff-taker — from the faceoff circle. Gallagher then lost the faceoff cleanly to Jason Spezza and the puck went straight to Jamie Benn, who beat Price and the buzzer to reduce the deficit.
Price broke his stick on the frame of the goal in frustration following Benn's goal.
After scoring in the first, Emelin was ejected from the game 5 minutes into the second period after hitting Spezza from behind into the boards. Montreal's Brandon Prust had taken an interference penalty 20 seconds earlier.
The Stars failed to score on the ensuing 5-on-3 man advantage, but Eaves did beat Price as time expired on Emelin's major at 10:05 of the second, to put the Stars within one. Tyler Seguin got an assist on the goal, his team-leading 53rd point of the year.
Dallas squandered an opportunity to tie the score late in the third period with another 5-on-3 power play, this time for 1:03.
Winger Travis Moen was back at the Bell Centre for the first time since being traded by the Canadiens to the Stars on Nov. 11. Moen went to Dallas in the transaction that sent Sergei Gonchar to Montreal.
NOTES: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau is still sidelined after sustaining a concussion on Jan. 15 against Ottawa. ... Former Canadiens star Erik Cole (upper body) was not in the lineup. ... Price and forward Jiri Sekac, who attended the All-Star game last weekend in Columbus, did not practice with the Canadiens on Monday as their flight back home was delayed.
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