MONTREAL — A composed Carey Price looked like his old self in his return from injury.
The Canadiens goalie earned his first shutout since Feb. 28, 2017.
"I felt pretty good," said Price, who notched his 40th career shutout. "I felt prepared more than anything. I spent a lot of time thinking about today. I’m glad it all turned out well. Injuries aren’t a vacation. It took a lot to get ready."
Price missed 10 games with a lower-body injury dating back to Nov. 2. The Canadiens (9-12-3) went 4-4-2 in his absence.
The 30-year-old, whose specific injury was never disclosed, had a shaky start to the season prior to getting hurt. He came into Saturday’s game with an uncharacteristic 3.77 goals-against-average and an .877 save percentage.
But it was the Price of old between the pipes against the Sabres as he made several key saves to keep his side in the game.
In the second period, Price made back-to-back saves on Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson in close quarters. In the third, Price stopped Jack Eichel twice on the power play to preserve Montreal’s three-goal lead.
"When you watch him play, that’s the Carey Price that we’ve seen here since I’ve been in the league, since he’s been in the league," said Brendan Gallagher. "Just look at how composed he was. He never really looks panicky.
"We feed off of that in front of him."
The Habs netminder made most of the 36 saves he faced look easy. His 40th shutout puts him six away from tying Ken Dryden for third-most shutouts in Canadiens history.
"That was the Carey Price we’re used to," said coach Claude Julien. "He came back strong. He was calm tonight and excited to play. Very good first game for him."
Jeff Petry rewarded Price’s efforts with his third goal of the season at 12:54 of the first period. With Montreal on the power play, Petry’s shot from the point went off Rasmus Ristolainen’s stick and the puck jumped over Robin Lehner’s shoulder.
Alex Galchenyuk made it 2-0 with his first goal in 12 games at 13:58 of the second period. Streaking down the ice on a 2-on-1 with Paul Byron, Galchenyuk buried the rebound after Byron’s shot bounced off Lehner’s pad.
Byron got one of his own in the third period when he scored on a short-handed breakaway. The first-line winger intercepted a pass from Eichel and moved in all alone on Lehner, beating him five-hole for his first short-handed goal of the season.
"With the time in the game, and that moment, it was a big goal," said Byron. "I’m just trying to kill the penalty. If it’s there, I’ll take it. If I keep getting them, I’ll take them."
Lehner made 23 saves for the last-place Sabres (6-14-4), who have lost eight of their last nine games.
It looked like Evander Kane had spoiled Price’s shutout with 32 seconds remaining in the game but the goal was disallowed for goaltender interference on Sam Reinhart.
"I have no idea what they were reviewing," said Kane. "I saw the replay on the jumbotron. I don’t know if I have to go to the eye doctor but it looked like Sam was outside the crease. I don’t have anything good to say about that decision.
"We didn’t work hard enough to beat him (Price) or to score multiple goals in the game. They capitalized on the few chances they had."
Montreal’s last victory was against the Sabres exactly two weeks ago.
Notes: Shea Weber (lower-body injury) missed his third straight game. â€¦ Montreal plays seven of its next eight games at the Bell Centre. â€¦ It was the third of four meetings between the Canadiens and Sabres this season. … The Habs recalled defenceman David Schlemko from the Laval Rocket after the game.