Signs point to Price in Habs' net

The Canadiens will be counting on Carey Price to pull them even in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter- final series against the Washington Capitals tonight at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN, RDS, CJAD Radio-800).

While Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin said he would wait until this morning to name his starting goaltender, all the signs point to Price over Jaroslav Halak .

The most telling signs came after yesterday’s practice when the goalies addressed the media. Price seemed upbeat and relaxed, while Halak almost seemed resigned to playing a backup role.

“This is not up to me; it’s out of my reach,” Halak said when asked about the starting assignment. “If I don’t play, I’ll understand. If Carey plays, the whole team will be behind him and that includes me.” Halak was the difference in Game 1 of the series last Thursday as he backstopped the Canadiens to a surprising 3-2 overtime win in Washington. But he was part of a general meltdown in Game 2, which ended with a 6-5 overtime loss and was yanked after giving up three goals to start the second period in Game 3 at the Bell Centre Monday night.

“As a team, we had a good first period,” Halak said of Monday’s game. “We came out hard and we had some chances, but we didn’t score. In the second, we had a power play and we gave up a shorthanded goal. It wasn’t the kind of start we wanted in the second period. Then, they had a few chances and they scored.” You can’t put all the blame for the losses on Halak , but the bottom line is that, from the time the Capitals launched their comeback from 4-1 in Game 2 until the time he was lifted in Game 3, he gave up eight goals on 30 shots for a save percentage of .733.

While Price’s regular-season stats lag behind Halak’s , he has a few things going for him if he plays tonight.