MONTREAL -- Carey Price hasn't been named Canada's go-to goalie for the Sochi Olympics.
Not yet, anyway.
Actually, he won't even be named to the squad for another month.
Consider both to be a formality. At most.
Price showed again Saturday night, when he turned aside 29 of 31 shots in Montreal's 3-2 victory against the Penguins at Bell Centre, why he is the obvious selection to help his country defend the gold medal it won in 2010.
"We definitely started very well and got some really good chances," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "He kind of weathered the storm early on and allowed them to stay in the game and get that important first goal. He was solid all the way through."
The Penguins, who had won their previous three games, couldn't get anything past Price until James Neal hammered a slap shot over his glove from inside the right circle on a power play at 5:14 of the third period.
That goal spoiled Price's bid for his second shutout of the season, but didn't seem as if it could have an impact on the outcome until the Penguins scored again in the waning minutes of regulation.
With less than three minutes remaining in the third period, Evgeni Malkin capped a spectacular end-to-end rush by setting up Neal for a tap-in in front of the Montreal net.
Malkin then slammed into the boards behind the Canadiens goal line and appeared to be shaken up. But he did not miss a shift as the Penguins made a desperate, though ultimately futile, attempt to force overtime.
"We battled hard to get back into it," Crosby said. "But it's a tough game to play when you're fighting [from behind] like that in the third period."
Unfortunately for the Penguins, by the time they began to solve Price, Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens had beaten Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury twice and Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec also had scored.
The loss was the Penguins' first in regulation in eight games against Montreal -- they had been 7-0-1 in their previous seven against the Canadiens -- as well as their first in six visits to the Bell Centre, where they had been 3-0-2 in the previous five.
The Penguins played without winger Beau Bennett, who sustained an unspecified injury in their 4-3 victory Friday night against the New York Islanders. No prognosis for him has been announced.
Matt D'Agostini took Bennett's place in the lineup.
The Penguins had a chance to get an early advantage when they were awarded two power plays in the first six minutes, 10 seconds of play, but failed to capitalize on either.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, didn't get a shot until 8:23 of the opening period, but when they did, Fleury had to make a good glove stop on Ryan White from the left dot on a two-on-one break.
Price subsequently denied winger Pascal Dupuis on a couple of point-blank chances with just under seven minutes remaining in the period and stopped defenseman Robert Bortuzzo's uncontested shot from the slot at 14:36.
"He was good early," Dupuis said. "Really good early."
Pacioretty put Montreal ahead, 1-0, at 1:53 of the second, as he picked off a pass by Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in the neutral zone, then carried it into the Penguins' end before beating Fleury from above the left hash.
That goal undoubtedly gave Montreal a psychological boost, as the Canadiens are 11-2 when scoring the first goal while the Penguins are 12-1 when they get it.
Fleury kept the Penguins within a goal when he denied Canadiens forward Brian Gionta from the left side of the crease at 6:20, and the Penguins killed consecutive penalties to Brandon Sutter and Brian Gibbons in the second half of the period to remain within striking distance.
The Canadiens, however, got the goals that provided to be decisive early in the third period.
Plekanec made it 2-0 at 1:05 when he scored from just inside the left circle, and Pacioretty beat Fleury from the right dot at 2:25 for what proved to be the winner.
Not long after that, the Penguins managed to put a puck behind Price. Did it again awhile later, too.
They just couldn't manage it often enough to salvage a point.
"We had our chances and weren't able to solve him until the third," winger Jussi Jokinen said. "But we had our chances in the first two periods."
Penguins forward Tanner Glass left the game with an unspecified injury.
Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published November 23, 2013 9:57 PM