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Montreal Canadiens' goalie Carey Price removes his mask as he skates to the bench after allowing five goals to the New York Rangers during the first period of their NHL hockey game in New York, March 18, 2011. Price was replaced by Alex Auld. REUTERS/Mike Segar (Mike Segar/Reuters)
Montreal Canadiens' goalie Carey Price removes his mask as he skates to the bench after allowing five goals to the New York Rangers during the first period of their NHL hockey game in New York, March 18, 2011. Price was replaced by Alex Auld. REUTERS/Mike Segar (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Habs' Carey Price keeps emotions in check Add to ...

Not so long ago, there may well have been a fist-shaped hole in the dressing room drywall.

A splintered stick, or perhaps a suspiciously dented garbage can - at minimum a tantrum.

That the Bell Centre installations survived intact on Monday can be counted as another footnote in the great tale of the continuing maturation of Carey Price.

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After giving up a pair of iffy goals in a 4-2 Game 3 reversal to the Boston Bruins - a victory that allowed the visitors to clamber back into the series - the Montreal Canadiens goaltender was peeved at himself and evidently angry at losing.

But he was nevertheless emotionally contained, even philosophical, in defeat.

"Going through even last year, when you watch guys and how they react after losses, it doesn't help getting all fired up and coming in here and getting all mother-f this and choking that. It just doesn't work," Price said. "We're all pretty focused and we're ready to put this one behind us."

Throughout a stellar regular season that vaulted the rangy 23-year-old into the conversation about the NHL's finest goaltenders, Price has cited his renewed focus on attention to detail in practice and mental preparation - and after his first taste of playoff hardship this year, it's where he'll turn again.

"It's all about preparation at this time of year … and it starts with me," he said after the game Monday.

Psychological conditioning is important to goaltenders: Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas candidly admitted on Monday night his first thought after letting an Andrei Kostitsyn shot slide through his legs was that he was going to have to accept blame for losing the game (the Bruins were up 3-0 in the game at the time).

Thomas was able to bear down when it mattered, as Price is clearly keen to show he can do, too.

The Canadiens had the day off on Tuesday - presumably to stew in their own juices over giving up three goals in just less than 23 minutes in their first home postseason date of the year - although Price said the two-day break between games won't be spoiled by negative thoughts over the team's woeful start on Monday.

"It's not too bad, we knew things weren't always going to go our way, adversity is something that's faced by every team in the playoffs. It sucks that we lose and then sit for two days but really it's not going to bother us too much, we take it for what it is and get ready for the next game," Price said.

So now the attention shifts to the response.

And if the Habs are to stake themselves to a 3-1 series lead - it's probably not overstating matters to say that whoever wins game four will win the best-of-seven set - Price will surely play a front-line role, as he did in two wins in Boston to open the series.

There are encouraging signs from a Montreal perspective: Price made some key stops after his bumbling clearance led to Rich Peverley's winning goal, bolstering his team's comeback attempt, and more broadly, he has played brilliantly since the calendar page turned to April.

So far this month, the B.C. native is 5-1 with an eye-popping .962 save percentage and 1.16 goals-against average - Monday was just the second time he's allowed more than two goals since March 24, and he hasn't suffered consecutive losses in nearly a month.

It's little wonder, then, that Canadiens centre Scott Gomez, who has played with two of the best goalies of this or any generation (Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers) recently called Price "the best goalie in the world."

Defenceman Hal Gill suggested Price was victimized by "crap bounces" in his last start, and said the team is determined to rediscover its edge during its two-day respite (the Bell Centre is playing host to a Rush concert on Wednesday, so hockey will have to wait).

"We need to get some rest. It's going to be a hard-fought win the next one," Gill said. "We're going to look at tape, we're going to talk to each other, we're going to figure out what we do well and do it well on Thursday."

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